Thursday, October 8, 2015

How To Avoid Natural Disaster Charity Scams That Are On The Rise

by Gary Snyder

The greatest scams accompany the times of greatest need, and natural disasters are a match made in heaven for fraudsters.

Con artists take advantage of open hearts and wallets, steering well-intended donations to phony nonprofits. 

We see this story play out during every national and international human crisis. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the American Red Cross asked the FBI to investigate at least 15 fake websites that were designed to look like legitimate Red Cross appeals for donations. 

it's a good idea to disseminate the safety precautions advised by the Federal Trade Commission:
Avoid any charity or fundraiser that:
·       Refuses to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs, and how the donation will be used.
·       Won't provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible.
·       Uses a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization.
·       Thanks you for a pledge you don't remember making.
·       Uses high-pressure tactics like trying to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to think about it and do your research.
·       Asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire money.
·       Offers to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately.
·       Guarantees sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. By law, you never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.
Refer to this charity checklist to suss out the real deals from the fakers:
·       Ask for detailed information about the charity, including name, address, and telephone number.
·       Get the exact name of the organization and do some research. Searching the name of the organization online -- especially with the word "complaint(s)" or "scam"-- is one way to learn about its reputation.
·       Call the charity. Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. The organization's development staff should be able to help you.
·       Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.
·       Check if the charity is trustworthy by contacting the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving AllianceCharity NavigatorCharity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • Ask if the caller is a paid fundraiser. If so, ask:
·       The name of the charity they represent
·       The percentage of your donation that will go to the charity
·       How much will go to the actual cause to which you're donating
·       How much will go to the fundraiser
·       Keep a record of your donations.
·       Make an annual donation plan. That way, you can decide which causes to support and which reputable charities should receive your donations.
·       Visit this Internal Revenue Service (IRS) webpage to find out which organizations are eligible to receive tax deductible contributions.
·       Know the difference between "tax exempt" and "tax deductible." Tax exempt means the organization doesn't have to pay taxes. Tax deductible means you can deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return.
·       Never send cash donations. For security and tax purposes, it's best to pay by check -- made payable to the charity -- or by credit card.
·       Never wire money to someone claiming to be a charity. Scammers often request donations to be wired because wiring money is like sending cash: once you send it, you can't get it back.
·       Do not provide your credit or check card number, bank account number or any personal information until you've thoroughly researched the charity.
·       Be wary of charities that spring up too suddenly in response to current events and natural disasters. Even if they are legitimate, they probably don't have the infrastructure to get the donations to the affected area or people.
·       If a donation request comes from a group claiming to help your local community (for example, local police or firefighters), ask the local agency if they have heard of the group and are getting financial support.
·       What about texting? If you text to donate, the charge will show up on your mobile phone bill. If you've asked your mobile phone provider to block premium text messages -- texts that cost extra -- then you won't be able to donate this way.

If an employee thinks he's been the target of a scam, make sure to report it by filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, which can help the agency detect patterns of wrongdoing and lead to investigations and prosecutions.

Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Charity Navigator, Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio (NPR), Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), “Betrayal”, (a movie), NBC (on Charity Fraud…TBD), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Marie Claire, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, Charity Navigator, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, Board Room Insider, USA Today Topics, Accountants News,, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times, Portfolio Magazine, The Virgin Islands Daily News, NANKAI (China) BUSINESS REVIEW, National Religious Broadcasters newsletter, The Charity Governance Blog, American Chronicle, Palm Beach Post, Detroit Free Press, Oakland Press, Nonprofit World, Socially Responsible Business Forum, PNNOnline, Ohio Nonprofit Resources, Nonprofit Good Practice Guide, Nonprofit Startup Guide, Nonprofit Blog, National Coalition of Homeless Newsletter, Finance and Administration Roundtable Newsletter,, CORP! Magazine, Crain’s Michigan Nonprofit,, PhilanTopic, Nashville Free Press, Nonprofit Law Blog, Seniors World Chronicle, Carnegie Reporter, Assoc. of Certified Fraud Examiners Examiner,, Worchester (MA) Telegram and Gazette, Carnegie Corporation of America, EO Tax Journal, Wikipedia: Non-profit Organizations; Parent: Wise Austin, Accountants News, Veterans Today,, Far-roundtable, #Nonprofit Report, nonprofithelpnews, nonprofit news; National Enquirer, Northwest Herald, The HelpWise Daily, The #Nonprofit Report, Wikipedia (Nonprofit Organization),, Nonprofits: On the Brink (2006) Silence: The Impending Threat to the Charitable Sector (2011)
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