Charity scams: What they are and how to avoid them

A person holding a smartphone with the words SCAM on the screen. Cases of charity scams are on the rise

Charity scams are fraudulent schemes that exploit the generosity and compassion of donors to collect money for fake or dishonest causes.

Charity scammers may use various methods to solicit donations, such as phone calls, emails, social media posts, crowdfunding platforms, or even in-person visits.

They may also impersonate legitimate charities or use names that sound similar to well-known organizations.

Charity scams are not only harmful to the donors who lose their money, but also to the genuine charities and beneficiaries who miss out on the funds they need.

Charity scams on the rise

According to Action Fraud, fraudsters have stolen £2.3m from charities in 2022 (between January and November 2022). This is a 44% increase from the same period last year, when the sector lost £1.6m.

Charity scammers often take advantage of current events or disasters to appeal to the emotions of potential donors. For example, in 2020, there was nearly 70% increase in charity scams compared to 2019, coinciding with the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the same year, 200,000 new websites were registered for fake COVID-19 crisis fundraising . Another example is the 196 reports about fake fundraising for Ukraine crisis victims that the U.K. National Fraud received in 2014.

Thee ongoing Israel-HAMAS conflict has also attracted fraud scammers—who are soliciting fake humanitarian donations from the unsuspecting members of he public.

“The FBI has received complaints of legitimate email addresses of Israel-based individuals being hacked or possibly spoofed to solicit donations.”

How to Spot Charity Scams

Charity scams can be hard to detect, as scammers use various techniques to bypass spam filters and evade detection. However, there are some common red flags that can help you identify potential fraudulent activity. It’s probably a scam if you spot any of the following:

  • Unsolicited emails seeking donations
  • Asking for payment with cash, gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency
  • Do not provide clear information about their mission, goals, activities, or financial status
  • Do not have a verifiable track record or reputation
  • Use generic names or logos that resemble those of well-known organizations
  • Charities that pressure you to donate quickly or urgently
  • Offer prizes, rewards, or tax deductions in exchange for donations
  • Charities that have spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, or poor design on their emails or websites
A scammer. Charity scams
Charity Scams (Photo used for illustration)| Biztech Lens

How to Avoid Charity Scams

To protect yourself from charity scams, you should always do your research before donating to any organization. Here are some tips on how to do that:

  • Verify charities by cross-checking their credentials in known databases, such as Charity Navigator, GuideStar, GiveWell, or BBB Wise Giving Alliance
  • Do some online research before deciding to donate
  • Approach charities directly by typing in their website address rather than clicking on links from emails or social media posts
  • Check the domain name and email address of the charity for any discrepancies or misspellings
  • Look for secure payment methods and encryption on the charity’s website (such as HTTPS or a padlock icon)
  • Contact the charity by phone or email and ask questions about their work and finances
  • Review the charity’s annual reports, financial statements, and tax forms (if available)
  • Be wary of any requests for personal or financial information
  • Report any suspicious emails or websites to the authorities or anti-fraud agencies

You can avoid charity scams and ensure that your donations reach the intended beneficiaries. Share this post with friends and family to raise awareness and prevent them from being scammed.

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