Charity scams abound throughout the year, but are especially virulent during the Holiday season. While they target the entire general population, they focus on senior citizens. Seniors can be more attuned to charity pitches due to their age and vulnerability.
Americans are a generous people. Last year, in 2018, Americans contributed nearly $428 billion dollars. This statistic is compiled by the Giving USA Foundation’s annual report on U.S. philanthropy.
This generosity supports many wonderful organizations that send the money to organizations involved health care, education, environmental protection and the arts. Unfortunately, it also opens a door for scammers, who capitalize on donors’ goodwill to line their pockets.
Charity Scams: How It Works
A majority of charity scams involve faux fundraising for veterans and disaster relief. Scammers know that Americans have a soft spot in their hearts to support people hurt by natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and fires.
Other popular scams are cancer charities and crowdfunding web sites. For example, last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that cancer ‘charities’ cheated donors out of 187 million dollars.
Charity scams use the same marketing tools as the honest charities. For example, marketing vehicles such as web sites, direct mail, email,and door-to-door canvassing.
Some operate fully outside the law; others are in fact registered nonprofits but devote little if any of the money they raise to the programs they promote. So you’re asking this good question: How can I tell the difference?
Here are several flashing red lights that should make you stop and consider whether you should go ahead and make that donation:
- Pressure to give right now. A legitimate charity will welcome your donation whenever you choose to make it.
- A thank-you for a donation you don’t recall making. Making you think you’ve already given to the cause is a common trick unscrupulous fundraisers use to lower your resistance.
- A request for payment by cash, gift card or wire transfer. Those are scammers’ favored payment methods because the money is difficult to trace.