Charity scams: IRS issues another warning

The IRS has once again issued an alert for scams relating to fake charities. This time the fraudsters are looking to profit from the severe flooding in South Carolina that led to the declaration of a federal disaster area.

If you’re planning to donate, watch for these signs that a fundraiser isn’t on the up-and-up:

  • The fly-by-night charity. Every legitimate charitable association started sometime, and some are still being formed. But natural disasters seem to spawn an inordinate share of bogus charities that capitalize on human suffering. Beware. Donate to charities that you trust, which means those with a proven track record. If you’re unsure, check out the organization with the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, Guidestar, or similar watchdog groups.
  • The evasive fundraiser. A legitimate caller should be upfront about the charity, the percentage of funds allocated to administration and marketing, and what target groups will be aided by your donation. Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions and expect direct answers. If the fundraiser hedges responses or knows little about the supposed cause to which you’re contributing, consider sending your dollars elsewhere. Beware of vague claims like “educating the public” or “promoting awareness.”
  • The urgent on-line request. Widespread use of social media has provided fraudsters a golden opportunity to take the money and run. Websites made to mimic legitimate charities have conned many otherwise prudent contributors. Emails brimming with desperate pleas for money may originate from the backroom computer of some scam artist. Never divulge your financial information via email and don’t assume that social media messages about a particular charity are legitimate. Call the charity directly and find out if it’s registered in your state (if required). Ask for written information. When in doubt, check it out.

Many charitable organizations are seeking your aid to address genuine hardships. Avoid the schemes of unethical hucksters and your donations will provide help where it’s needed most.

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