Today is the 12th anniversary of 9/11. In 2001, not long after the terrorist attacks, the IRS fast-tracked approval of more than 300 new charities related to the event. Together, they have raised more than $2 billion and counting. Causes range from scholarships for the children of victims to memorial sites.
Unfortunately, along with the honorable charities came numerous scam artists intent on taking advantage of the public’s emotions. Many of those phony charities are still around, waiting to take advantage of your feelings to make a quick buck.
Some of the bad guys seem legitimate at first, seeking donations for firefighters, wives and children of victims, or additions to the 9/11 memorial. But there are some definite red flags that will help you avoid being taken by a charity scam.
BBB Wise Giving Alliance (WGA) recommends you do your research when finding an organization to donate your money or time to. BBB WGA produces reports on more than 1,200 nationally soliciting charitable organizations. Local Better Business Bureaus report on another 10,000 local and regional charities.
Before you take out your wallet, follow these tips from BBB and make sure your money goes where you want it to go:
- Ask why the charity is collecting donations for 9/11. Doing so will alert you of their ongoing purpose.
- Research the charity by looking up their website and any other online buzz surrounding the organization. Never click on links through an unsolicited email.
- Request printed materials when receiving soliciting phone calls. If you receive a brochure or other collateral, fact check the organizations address, phone number and website before sending anything back in the mail.
- Never give credit card or bank information over the phone or wire money to a charity. These are the two largest red flags of a charity scam.
- Be cautious of bogus names that mimic legitimate organizations. Scammers often set up fake charities with names that sound similar to a recognizable organization.
- If you are contacted by an organization or charity and solicited for a donation, keep an eye out for these warning signs of a scam:
- They refuse provide detailed information (i.e. they cannot identify the organization and its mission, how the funds will be used, or provide proof the donation is tax deductible.) Real charities have all this information on hand and will gladly give it to you.
- You are thanked for a donation you don’t remember making. This is a tactic to try to make you feel comfortable to give “again.” Keep track of your donations with receipts and never feel uncomfortable or obligated to give to a charity.
- Sense of urgency. Many scam artists try to get you to donate quickly without giving you a chance to ask questions or verify their legitimacy. Always take your time, do your research, read the fine print and only donate if you feel comfortable.
– Watch Your Buck, a BBB blog