The holidays are coming up, and we certainly should embrace the giving and sharing spirit and let people in precarious financial and social conditions enjoy a good meal, a toy for their children, or some much-needed money to buy medicine, groceries, shelter, or any other thing they may need. However, with so many cybercrimes in recent times, we need to pick our preferred platforms and do specific things to avoid charity scams when we donate.
The digital platform isn’t what it was two decades ago. You most certainly wouldn’t be able to donate to your favorite charity online, and now there are dozens of sites and ways to provide your contribution to the society. On the other hand, the web wasn’t so insecure 20 years ago as it is today. It is full of hackers, crypto miners, malware, identity thieves, and people are messing with the money that should go to charitable organizations. You should need to know how to avoid charity scams these days, or your money won’t be there to help the less fortunate ones.
What are charity scams?
Cybercriminals known as scammers make you believe they run or are members of genuine charities. They ask for donations to help a specific cause, and can even get in contact with you saying, for example, that they are gathering funds to help people that have suffered natural disasters or other accidents.
How the scam works
There is nothing wrong with generous people. In fact, they are one of the reasons why those that have suffered accidents or natural disasters can get back on their feet and get the resources they need to heal their physical and emotional wounds. However, the problem is when that generosity comes bundled with naivety or unawareness.
Fake charities want to steal your money, impersonating charitable organizations that try to help others when they are actually robbing you without you even realizing it. These scams also have a secondary effect: people turn their backs on the real, legitimate institutions.
Although the holidays are a perfect time for scammers to pounce, stats show that fake charities perform their activities all year round. They take advantage of earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and other natural forces.
They elaborate a perfect setup, often claiming to be performing medical research for a specific disease, and in other cases appearing as single individuals in need for funds to pay for treatment. Scammers can impersonate a well-known charity or create their name. They try to get in touch with your emotions, saying that the money is for ill children or animals in need.
They don’t have a specific modus operandi. They can approach you on the street, at your front door, via fake websites, via email, or even calling you at your home or mobile phone requesting a contribution.
How to identify charity scams
- If you have never heard of the charity organization that is approaching you, or if you have, but you seriously doubt that the specific website that they link is legitimate, it may be a scam. These cybercriminals often put together a site that is nearly identical to the real organization’s one, changing only a few details (for example, the donations’ destination.)
- If the person collecting the money doesn’t have an ID, it is probably a scam. And even if he, or she, has one, it isn’t always legitimate.
- If the person is trying to guilt you into donating or making you feel bad for not doing it, it is probably a fake charity. Real organizations understand that contributing is an election, not an obligation.
- If they don’t accept checks, or if they insist on you writing them with their names and not that of the charity, they are probably criminals. Scammers love “donations” made via cash.
- If they don’t give you a receipt, or if they provide one without the charity’s details, they are scammers.
How to avoid charity scams
- If you want to donate, don’t wait to be approached by someone. Go to the organization yourself and contribute.
- Before providing money after being approached, check the legitimacy of the organization. Go to its website to ensure it is the same as the one you searched.
- Real charitable organizations are duly registered. And you can check that for yourself.
- If you don’t know or trust the person, don’t provide personal or financial information, and don’t send them money.
- If someone comes at your door, or you are approached on the street, ask to see the person’s ID.
- If someone comes at your door, or you are approached on the street, ask the person full details about the charity: name, years active, mission, modus operandi, and others. If you see a lot of hesitation or a “defensive” attitude, don’t donate.
- Stay away from payments upfront via money order, transfer, or even Bitcoin, because you may not be able to recover the funds.
- Look out for name similarities. Scammers often make up names that are very similar to worldwide known organizations. The person assumes it is the wrong one and donates money.
- Avoid social media donations.
- Just in case, make sure to download a VPN app to protect your mobile and desktop devices and to ensure your online activities are encrypted and protected against hackers, charity scammers, and other criminals on the web. TorGuard has an excellent reputation in the market as one of the best because it provides end to end data encryption and privacy, a broad server network (more than 3,000 servers in 55 nations,) a fabulous customer service, and other security features for just $10 per month. You can even spoof your location and visit other countries’ charity organizations.
In conclusion, to avoid charity scams, all you need is common sense, awareness, and the willingness to research and double check before providing money to strangers. Look for IDs, avoid cash payments, and make sure the institution is registered.