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How to Recognize Charity Fraud

Scam artists use solicitation techniques to trick their prey. Here's how not to be a victim.

By Federal Trade Commission | November 26, 2012

A flyer in the mail, a phone call, a personalized email: Everyone receives requests for donations in one form or another.  

Many legitimate charities use telemarketing, direct mail, email and online ads to ask for contributions. Unfortunately, scam artists also use these techniques to pocket your money. If someone asks for a donation, take your time and familiarize yourself with the charity:

  •     Ask for the charity’s name, address and phone number, and request written information about its programs.
  •     Inquire whether the person contacting you is a professional fundraiser and how much of your contribution will go to fundraising costs.
  •     Check the history of the organization with the office that regulates charities in your state. 
You should also know the warning signs of a scam:
  •     High-pressure pitches. Reject them: It’s okay to hang up.
  •     A thank -ou for a pledge you don't remember making. Be skeptical; scam artists will lie to get your money.
  •     Requests for cash. Avoid giving cash donations. 
  •     Charities that offer to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect your money.
  •     Charities that guarantee sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution.
  •     Charities that spring up overnight, especially those that involve current events like natural disasters, or those that claim to be for police officers, veterans, or firefighters. They probably don't have the infrastructure to get your donations to the affected area or people.