December 20, 2015

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Scam Alert: Charity Scams

When the holiday season unofficially kicked off the day after Thanksgiving with Black Friday, you may have gotten a little lost among all of the other shopping days with cute titles like Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. So many great deals and so many gifts to buy, right?

It’s not uncommon for us to get so sucked in to the shopping side of the holidays that we forget about giving to the less fortunate. The holidays are all about joy and it is incredibly important to spread that happiness to others who need our help.

Of course, it’s important to remember that, although we are in the spirit of giving right now, scammers are in the spirit of taking. There are always individuals out there waiting to prey on the kindness of others by running some type of charity scam. Here are some tips to consider as you choose a charity to donate to this holiday season:

  • Do your homework before you donate. Don’t just open your wallet to the first charity that you come across. Do a little investigating and see which charities are most popular and which ones may be a little sketchy. Helpful sites include and Charity Navigator. The Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting put together a recent list of the 50 worst charities in America — charities that collected more than $1.35 billion in donations over the years, and kept $970 million of that money for themselves. Consult that list first so you know who to steer clear of.
  • Think twice if you are contacted directly. It is sad that in this day and age, it’s tough to trust any charity that calls, e-mails, or shows up at your front door. If a charity contacts you to solicit donations, you can take down their name and do a little research, but don’t give right away. If you receive an e-mail from an alleged charity, do not download any attachments or click on any links — there’s a higher likelihood that the e-mail is a scam or virus than it is actually a charity reaching out to you.
  • Don’t be fooled by the colored ribbon. Different colored ribbons are used by a variety of causes as a way to show support — for example, the red ribbon for the fight against AIDS, and the pink ribbon for those battling breast cancer. Use of those ribbons as marketing or donation tools are not regulated by any of type of government agency, however, so just remember that anyone can wear a ribbon and claim they’re from a legitimate charity.
  • Check out for top-rated charities. As you choose a charity to donate to, stop by CharityWatch for advice. They say the groups on their list “generally spend 75% or more of their budgets on programs, spend $25 or less to raise $100 in public support, do not hold excessive assets in reserve, have met CharityWatch’s governance benchmarks, and receive ‘open-book’ status for disclosure of basic financial information and documents to CharityWatch.” There are plenty of charities that get high marks and could really use your help.

Don’t let the threat of charity scams stop you from donating this holiday season. There are so many groups out there that need your help, and with a little vigilance and care on your part, you can make a big difference in many lives.

Image courtesy of Flickr user contemplativechristian.

Melanie Medina

Sr. Director of Digital Marketing at IdentityForce
Melanie is a native of Bolivia who has lived in Boston for over 10 years. She likes to make time to travel, jog, read, and play backgammon. Fueled by copious amounts of coffee, Melanie stays on top of her to-do list while also keeping abreast of identity theft issues. Serious data breaches are happening all the time in the U.S. and Melanie loves being part of a solution that brings peace of mind to families across the country.

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