Work & Money

Avoid Charity Scams

In the light of the recent devastating tornadoes in the US, Senior Planet is re-running this article on charity scams.

Emergency workers and volunteers are busy and many others across the nation want to help.  Unfortunately, scammers also are also busy – posing as phony charities.

The FTC has published some helpful information (full story here) and advice to help you insure that your money gets in the hands of charities you want to help – and not the pockets of some scammers. Here’s quick digest of tips.

Finding the right ones

Be careful when looking at specifically targeted charities. Work with established ones with a track record – do your research.

Avoid charities that spring up overnight in response to a tragedy.  Not every appeal for help on Facebook or other social media is legitimate.

When researching a specific charity, search its name plus “complaint,” “review,” “rating,” or “scam.”

Be careful how you donate

Use the same caution you’d use with other transactions and scams.  Just because it’s for a worthy cause doesn’t mean there are honest people behind it. Bogus organizations may claim that your donation is tax-deductible when it is not.

Don’t donate with cash, gift card, or by wiring money.  That’s what scammers want!  Always pay by credit card or check, after checking the legitimacy of the organization.

Keep a record of all donations. Review your statements closely to make sure you’re only charged the amount you agreed to donate – and that you’re not signed up to make a recurring donation.

When texting to donate, confirm the number on the charity’s website.

Think before you click!! Before clicking on a link to donate online, make sure you know who is receiving your donation.

Hello this is a scammer calling!

Some scammers work the phones extra hard during disasters.  Here are some ways to be smart about any phonecalls;

Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. That’s something scammers do.

Some scammers try to trick you into paying them by thanking you for a donation that you never made.

Scammers can change caller ID to make a call look like it’s from a local area code or from a legitimate charity.

Some scammers use names that sound a lot like the names of real charities. This is one reason it pays to do some research before giving.

If you see any red flags, consider a different charity and report scams to the FTC.  Find your state charity regulator at and report to them, too. Share any information you have – like the name of the organization or fundraiser, phone number, and what the fundraiser said.

Organizations that can help you research charities

These organizations offer reports and ratings about how charitable organizations spend donations and how they conduct business:

BBB Wise Giving Alliance

Charity Navigator



The IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search tells you if your donation would be tax deductible.


Photo by John Middelkoop for Unsplash


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