Avoiding Scams: What To Do Before You Give To Charities
The fear of being scammed has made donors hesitant to open their wallets for goodwill. This takes away donation opportunities from potential donors, and furthermore, aid in the form of cash and resources is held back from reaching the people who truly need it. Not an easy problem to overcome but some actionable steps can be taken to help donors identify a legitimate campaign from a fraud. And ultimately, retain donor confidence in giving.
First, let’s take a look at how charity frauds work. Scams often mimic real charities, making it easy for good to be stolen from goodwill. They seek donations for a cause but fail to pass on the proceeds and instead the money ends up with the fake charity’s creator. They can be serial fraudsters holding one-off events or opportunists who started out with good intentions.
To get to your wallet, a successful scam finds its way to your heart. Emotion is a powerful tool and scammers often use tragedies to exploit those who are willing to help. So what can you do to ensure your donations get where they’ll do good?
The guide before giving
Practice good cyber hygiene. Don’t open email attachments from senders you don’t know. Make it a habit to check if the website URL begins with HTTPS as opposed to HTTP. The former is encrypted and more secured while the latter is not.
A little research goes a long way. Check the track record of the charity. Look for its presence in different social media sites to see if they have different campaigns for the same cause. Be aware of copycat names similar to reputable charities and be wary of newbies that pop up after a well-publicised disaster.
Look at online reviews. Especially when it’s a charity you have not heard of before, take time to check. Search for the charity’s name plus ‘scam’, ’fraud’, ‘beware’, ’complaint’ or ‘review’. Heed the warnings of other donors.
Do not feel pressured into giving. Or let anyone rush you into making a donation. Is it a cause you are confident to fund? Take your time to read the campaign information which should provide a convincing reason for wanting financial support.
Know how your donation will be used. Scammers make a lot of vague claims with no specific details about what they will do with the money. Their claims may be exaggerated and their goals unrealistic. These too are warning signs.
Read the fine print. Are there important terms and conditions you need to know beforehand? Be certain of what you are committing to before you donate.
Be mindful of donation methods. Fraud fundraisers prefer donations through cash, gift cards or wire transfer as these routes are difficult to trace. Preferably, donate using credit card or direct debit. And at the donation online site, look for reputable, secured payment processes, and privacy protection seals such as PCI DSS. Keep a record of all donations and review your bank and credit card statements to make sure you are charged the correct amount.
The do’s and don’ts are standard tips to follow and your common sense is your best guide when in doubt. And should you encounter a suspicious scheme, don’t shut the door on all fundraisers completely.
Give directly to the recipient or a campaign within your immediate circle. These are people you trust or the community you are familiar with, and you are able to witness the outcome of the donation drive.
Donate through recognised fundraisers
Give to recognised fundraisers through official channels where your donation is accounted for appropriately. Legitimate charities are transparent with their goals and processes, and will provide clear feedback on their campaign.
While donors are advised to be cautious, established charities work hard to prove that they are trustworthy. The opportunities are there for making a real and positive difference to a cause; we just have to be vigilant.