Don’t Let Scammers Put Your Generosity at Risk
Between 2014 and 2017, American Veterans Foundation, Inc. raised $6.5 million in donations from generous American citizens to provide care packages to our deployed troops and services for homeless veterans. Sounds great, right? Helping our current and former military personnel is a worthwhile cause. However, all was not as it seemed. As it turns out, 92% of the money raised was pocketed by the founder and the fundraisers he hired.
This is just one example of the countless scams designed to take advantage of good-hearted Americans, using a real need as a front for their money-making scheme. Bogus charities come in all forms and use a variety of tactics and tricks to deceive smart and careful people — we’re not about to let that happen to you.
Pay Attention to Red Flags
Don’t let pushy behavior throw you off your game. If someone wants your money and they’re demanding or rude, tell them to take you off their calling list, hang up and move on with your life.
Unfortunately, no matter how careful we are, anyone can get scammed. Here are the red flags I watch out for before giving my money to a cause:
- When fundraisers are more pushy than you’d expect, asking for account numbers or social security numbers, that’s a pretty good indication they’re interested in more than funneling five dollars to cancer research.
- How about a money wire? No way! Make all donations through the mail or the charity’s website.
- Using the carrot-and-stick trick by suggesting your donation could win you major bucks in a sweepstakes or giveaway. This is illegal, by the way, and no good charity would turn to this strategy.
- They’re so vague there’s no way to tell if they’re legit or calling from a desk in their parent’s basement.
- Trying to create a history that isn’t there by thanking you for a donation you’re not certain you made is a trick they use to make you feel like you already checked them out. Don’t fall for it.
A Better Way — Choose Your Own Charity
In addition to the above red-flag behavior, scammers love to use the pressure of a poorly-timed phone call to trick potential donors into saying “yes” before doing research. These criminals know about websites like Charity Watch, Charity Navigator and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. They know that a few minutes online is all a savvy giver like you needs to see through their facade.
To prevent this high-pressure tactic from getting you to part with your money, just say no to random calls altogether, that’s what I do. Instead of relying on strangers to give me information on a charity, I do my own research, in my own time.
I made a list of five charities I found on the websites above, including the Jane Goodall Institute, Convoy of Hope and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I know they have been vetted and the money I donate actually goes to something I care deeply about.
Moving forward, I decided I wouldn’t donate to anyone else, no matter who called with a heart-wrenching plea. If you have a list in place, shutting down those phone calls is simple.
With this approach, you can protect your money from bogus charities and still make the choice to give generously when you feel passionate about a cause.