People donate to charities for a variety of reasons and non-profit organizations wouldn’t exist without the generosity of the giving public. But, when you give online to an organization how do you know if it is a legitimate cause or not? There are scammers out there ready to seize your money and sometimes your identity as well. We’ve listed a few online charity scams of which you should be aware.
- Haitian Charity Scam – There are several sites set up to help the victims of the disaster in Haiti. Before giving to any of them, check to see if they are legitimate. Find out what percentage of the money actually gets to the victims or is used to help the victims. If it’s less than 65% then this is an outfit you probably want to stay away from. Going through an established group like the Red Cross is a better way to help.
- Nigerian help scam – This scam has been around for a long time, yet it continues to crop up. Some people still fall victim despite several warnings that have gone out. The scam usually involves a message to the victim that they have been chosen to help with a bank transfer amounting to huge amounts of money. Eventually the victim is asked to supply emergency funds in varying amounts so that the transfer can take place. Sometimes this gets played out for a very long time with unsuspecting victims. Don’t be duped.
- Long lost relative – An Oregon woman lost $400,000 doing what she thought was a favor for a “long lost relative” in Nigeria. She was contacted via email with a plea for help from someone who claimed to be a relative and promised thousands of dollars in return for help. It started with just $100, but the increments kept going up. Finally, the authorities noticed a huge sum of money going to Nigeria and stepped in, only to find out the woman was the victim of a scam. Charity begins at home, so if your long lost relative whom you’ve never heard of needs some help, your better off suggesting they look to the local aid society.
- Lonely heart seniors – Senior citizens are an easy target for scammers, unfortunately; and those who are lonely can be especially vulnerable. Take the case of an elderly man who advertised for companionship. What he got was a response from a woman in Ghana looking for a long term relationship. However, she needed money to pay a hospital bill and for air fare so she could fly up to meet the gentleman. Out of the goodness of his heart, he took out loans and emptied his bank account to wire her the money. He was being charitable with the hope of finding a special friend and ended up losing all his assets and going in debt. Join a local seniors group to meet people, it’s safer that way.
- Disaster aid scam artists – Whenever a major disaster strikes, the scammers come out. Beware of overnight charities asking for donations to help the victims of the latest disaster. It is better to give to legitimate charities like the Red Cross and Salvation Army instead of going through an organization you know nothing about.
- Fake websites – These scammers set up fake websites that look like legitimate charities. They solicit you for donations and/or your personal information. Just remember that unless you have contacted a charity first, most legitimate organizations do not solicit donations through email. Be wary of one that does.
- Imitation websites – Some con artists have gone to the trouble of setting up websites that look exactly like actual well known charitable organizations. The difference is in where the money is sent. If you have any concerns about an organization’s website, it is best if you contact them through other means.
- Cancer Awareness scams – During the height of cancer awareness drives, particularly Breast Cancer Awareness Month, scammers seem to jump on the band wagon to get their undeserved share of the consumer’s donations. Giving to reputable, well known organizations is the best way of making sure your dollars go to the right place.
- Tornado victims fraud – When tornado season strikes and communities are devastated by nature’s wrath, not only do the willing volunteers come out to help, bogus charities get set up to relieve well meaning funders of their money. If you receive an email solicitation for helping tornado or hurricane victims, be sure to check the details. If the email is sent to “undisclosed recipients,” you can be almost certain that it is a scam.
- Police or Firefighter’s funds – If you receive a request to send money to either of these community services, call your local department before contributing to find out if such a drive is actually happening. Chances are, it isn’t.
There are websites that will help you learn some basic moves to protect yourself from online scams. If you are a senior citizen, it’s very important for you to do your homework before you send money or information to any charities over the internet. Charitable organizations need donations from those willing to give, however, the savvy consumer is wise and checks into the organizations he or she is donating to.