Five Telltale Signs of a Charity Scam
November 27, 2023
By Jennifer Pennings
Northside Branch Manager
When push comes to shove, Americans — especially Siouxlanders — are some of the most generous people on the planet. We should, however, be wary of being gullible givers. Especially during the holiday season, charity fraud often fills the headlines.
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 to provide charity details.
Be wary of any organization that refuses to provide detailed information about its mission statement, its operating costs, or how the donation will be used. If someone approaches you about giving — either online in person — they should always be able to answer the following questions:
- How is the money being used?
- Where is the charity headquartered?
- What is the organization's tax-exempt (EID) number?
- What percentage of the donation goes directly to the program?
Helpful Tip: When you find a charity you’re considering supporting, do a Google search and check out the organization’s official website. Does it give the information you’re looking for?
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, etc.). Scammers will trick you into feeling safe by assuming you’ve forgotten. But if they can't give you the simple information about a previous gift, they're probably not the actual organization you've supported in the past.
Helpful Tip: Keep detailed records of all charitable donations you make. (You should be doing this anyway, for tax purposes).
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.
Helpful Tip: Do a quick Internet search for the organization’s name alongside other search terms like “complaint,” “review,” “rating,” or “scam.” If you see any red flags, it’s probably best to find a different organization.
4. Requiring alternate payment methods.
Never donate to charities who require donations by cash, gift cards, wire services or payment apps like Venmo or CashApp. These are all ways that scammers love to get paid, because if you fall for their scam there's a very little chance you'll ever get the money back.
It’s also 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.
Helpful Tip: If you think a charity is legitimate, give funds directly via the organization’s official website or physical mailing address.
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:
Helpful Tip: Use the sites listed above to cross-reference the legitimacy of a charity.
What really matters:
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, contact us at Security National Bank, and we can help you set a charitable giving plan ahead of time — so you control when and how your funds support those in need.
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