Avoid Donations to Phony Charities
Charity fraud is an act in which unscrupulous people pose as fictitious charities in order to solicit financial donations from unsuspecting victims. Individuals who believe they are donating to a noble cause are instead being duped into giving away their money. Charity fraud can occur at all times, but is often most prevalent in times after a natural disaster as well as during the holiday season. It is imperative that consumers take steps to protect themselves from phony charities and ensure that they only make financial contributions to legitimate organizations. This article is provided as a public service by Action Donation Services® to educate those wanting to donate to a reputable charity. Action Donation processes donations of cars, boats, yachts, trucks, and motorcycles for many of America’s best known and reputable charities and non-profits.
Fraudulent organizations use a variety of methods in order to find victims for their scams. This crime can take place in person, through the mail, on the phone, or via e-mail. Phony charities often resort to illegal methods in order to find new victims. One tactic involves mailing a donation request to unsuspecting victims. When a fraudulent organization uses the United States Postal Service to send solicitations, they have committed a federal offense that may be reported to the U.S. Postal Service. There are steps consumers can and should take to find out whether or not they are dealing with a legitimate charitable organization. When speaking with anyone who claims to be representing a charity, be certain to ask for the organization’s full name, address, telephone number, website information, as a well as registration number. If the person you are speaking with is either unable or unwilling to give this information, this should be an immediate cause for concern. However, if you are able to ascertain this information, you can use it to verify the legitimacy of the organization which contacted you by checking with organizations such as the Better Business Bureau. Through research, you can determine if the company has had any prior complaints lodged against it, and whether it is a legitimate organization or not. Avoid companies that are not registered with the Better Business Bureau as well as those that state they are a new charity and have not had time to register.
Be wary of any company that contacts you through an unsolicited e-mail. Though these e-mails may appear professional and legitimate, it can still be part of a scam. Also keep in mind that fraudulent organizations will claim they are legitimate and well-known charities. Use discretion in dealing with any charity that has a similar sounding name or goal to organizations which you may be already familiar with. This is merely a ploy to make you think you are dealing with a real charity. Do not let a logo or savvy sounding business name fool you. A large number of charity scams are set up to look like legitimate non-profit organizations.
Never give a solicitor for a charity a cash donation and under no circumstance should you give your credit card information to charity you feel is questionable. A simple rule is to only give to charities that you have sought out and have previously decided you would donate to. Additionally, only donate to charities that are verified and established 501 (c) (3) non-profit organizations. This will speak to the validity of an organization and will also help if you would like to claim a tax deduction for your charitable contributions. Keep in mind that legitimate charitable organizations will not resort to high-pressure sale tactics in order to get a donation. If the event of someone becoming pushy and attempting to force you into a donation, you are most likely dealing with a scam.
When donating property such as used vehicles, boats, motorhomes, etc., be sure to work through the legitimate representatives of your favorite charity. Beware of online donation services who are themselves a “non-profit” but claim that you can donate to any charity you want. In many cases, such operations will divert the bulk of your donation to their own organization and then send only a token amount to the charity you have designated. An example of a service that represents only legitimate charities and non-profits and sends the total net proceeds to your designated charity is Action Donation Services® which processes property donations nationwide for some of America’s finest charities.
If you feel you have been contacted by a fraudulent charity, there are several steps you can take to make sure nobody becomes a victim of this scam. If the contact was made through postal mail, you may file a complaint with the U.S. Post Office. You may also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau, and your state’s Attorney General’s office.
Please consult the following links to learn more about protecting yourself from charity fraud.
- Avoid Charity Fraud: Resources from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding charity fraud and steps to prevent it.
- Charity Fraud (PDF): Utah State University looks at charity fraud and offers tips.
- Better Business Bureau for Charities and Donors: BBB extensive resource for those verifying the legitimacy of a charity.
- Charity Scams: Tips from the National Consumer League’s Internet Fraud Watch.
- Con Artists and the Games They Play: Resource created by the Ohio State University Extension for seniors to protect them from fraudulent charities and scams.
- Tips on Avoiding Fraudulent Charitable Contribution Schemes: The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) compiled these tips to warn consumers of tactics used by fraudulent charitable scams.
- Charity Listing: List of well-known charities that accept donations of cars, boats, RVs, and Motorcycles.
- United States Postal Inspection Complaint Service: File a complaint with the U.S. Postal service if you were contacted by a fraudulent charity via mail.
- Looks Too Good to Be True: Site created by the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service that discusses charitable fraud and steps to take if you’ve been victimized.