Beware of Post-Hurricane Charity Scams
September 18, 2017
By Josh Bliven
Northside Branch Manager, Loan Officer
Say what you will about the current climate in the United States; when push comes to shove (or storms come to shore), Americans — especially Siouxlanders — are some of the most generous people on the planet. We should, however, be wary of being gullible givers. Because oftentimes, charity scams fill the headlines following natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
When someone asks you for a donation, watch out for these five telltale signs that they could be setting you up for a scam:
1. Refusal/inability to provide a mission statement or other charity details.
Be wary of any representative or organization that refuses to provide detailed information about its mission statement, its operating costs, or how the donation will be used. Fundraisers should be able to easily state the name of the charity they represent, the percentage of your donation that will go to that charity and how much will go to the actual cause (for instance, the Red Cross supports several fundraising efforts; only a fraction of those efforts will go to support hurricane relief efforts).
Finding a means to donate directly to the cause you wish to support, rather than through a donation service, can ensure your funds have the desired effect.
2. Lack of information on your giving history.
If the organization thanks you for a previous donation, ask for the details of that gift (date, amount, form of payment). Scammers will often trick you into feeling safe by assuming you’ve forgotten; keep detailed records of all charitable donations in the meantime so you can be equipped.
3. A pushy ask.
A lot of scammers use high-pressure tactics to get you to donate immediately. Reputable organizations want you to feel good about your contribution and will give you plenty of time and reasons to do so. Never donate to charities who ask for donations in cash or via wire or courier.
4. Offering of sweepstakes.
It’s a red flag if the organization promises guaranteed sweepstakes winnings in exchange for your contribution. By law, you are never required to pay or donate to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.
5. no membership on accountability websites.
There are several organizations who make it their job to protect consumers and hold charities accountable. If a "charity" isn’t listed favorably (or at all) on the following sites, steer clear.
This list is by no means exhaustive. If the charity you are exploring feels fishy or off, go with your gut; your intuition is often the best guide. When in doubt, do your research and set a charitable giving plan ahead of time, so you control where and when your funds support those in need.
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