- Be sure to donate to recognized charities.
- Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. The IRS website at IRS.gov has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, through which people may find qualified charities; donations to these charities may be tax-deductible.
- Don’t give out personal financial information — such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords — to anyone who solicits a contribution. Scam artists may use this information to steal a donor’s identity and money.
- Never give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the donation.
How do you avoid a scam non-profit? You need to do some vetting. Here are some guidelines:
— A charity solicits your donation by phone or email. Most legitimate charities put their money into “program” work, that is, directly helping people. If you’re getting aggressive solicitations, that’s usually a bad sign. Avoid those charities that do this.
Want to know if a charity is legit? Here are some guidelines from the IRS:
“Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations.
— Use an independent third party to evaluate the charity. Other than Charity Navigator, use theBetter Business Bureau’s Give.org site. “Verify the trustworthiness of soliciting relief organizations by visiting Give.org to access free reports that specify if the charity meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability,” the BBB offers.
— See if the charity has boots on the ground. Many don’t, but will be more than happy to accept your donation. If you want to target your contribution to “direct” relief groups, then you need to do a little research.
“Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas,” notes the BBB, “it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate needs.”
— Be wary of crowdfunding. Although this way of raising money on social media can be effective and fast, these sites are hard to vet. You don’t know where the money is headed.
“Keep in mind that some crowdfunding sites do very little vetting of individuals who decide to post for assistance after a disaster, and it is often difficult for donors to verify the trustworthiness of crowdfunding requests for support,” the BBB adds.
“If you decide to contribute via crowdfunding, it is probably best to give to people who you personally know that have posted requests for assistance.”
Excerpts from Forbes.com and Maricopa County Department of Emergency Management