5 Ways to Spot a Scam Charity This Giving Season

By December 7, 2018Blog

With the majority of people making their charitable donations later this month, it’s important to know some of the pitfalls. We would never want to scare you away from contributing to those in need, but there are plenty of people out there just looking to make a buck. We’ve pulled together a list of ways to spot scammers a mile away. With a little bit of foresight, you can make sure your money goes to the people who need it most.

5 Ways to Spot a Scam Charity This Giving Season | WHYSgivingIt’s All In The Name

There are many charities that use similar-sounding names. While not all of these seeming duplicates are, in fact, duplicitous, some most certainly are. They’re using similarity heuristics as a shortcut to unearned trust. It’s similar to all those spam phone calls you’re likely receiving today. They use spoof same area code and the first 3 digits of your phone number to get you to answer the call. If you’re ever uncertain about the validity of a specific charity soliciting donations, check them out at a site like Charity Navigator.

Too Good To Be True

Does the charity in question make bold claims about where your dollars go? Nearly all charities have some sort of overhead costs associated with the organization. Otherwise, the people helping to run the charity wouldn’t make any income. Plus, there are generally some form of administrative costs involved in successfully running an nonprofit. It’s smart to ask for a breakdown of how funds are used, and you should certainly be skeptical if the operating costs seem large. Just don’t be fooled by false promises, either.

5 Ways to Spot a Scam Charity This Giving Season | WHYSgivingNo Tax Paperwork

If the charity in question is operating as a nonprofit, they should be able to offer paperwork for you to file at tax time for your donation. A refusal to provide this is a major red flag in most cases. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself in situations like these.


Have you received an email from someone claiming to be from a well-known charity? There are a number of ways to check that the email itself is actually from the correct sender. Checking the domain of the email address is smart, but there’s an even easier way to make sure you’re donating to the correct organization. Instead of clicking on any links in the email, search out the charity separately and make your donation on a known website, over the phone or by mail. You can even let them know what prompted you to donate. They know that trust is huge and that fraud is a very real problem.

5 Ways to Spot a Scam Charity This Giving Season | WHYSgivingCash-Only

Cash-only donations are uncommon in nonprofits. A charity that demands that instead of a check may not be legitimate. They could be trying to avoid a paper trail. Additionally, never make a check out to the person, only the name of the organization.

We hope you open your heart to others this holiday season. Charitable giving is an action that can spread amazing benefits throughout your community and the world. Just remember to take these few steps to make sure your donations aren’t going to scammers instead.

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