Is That Charity a Scam or Legitimate?

Americans are a generous lot when it comes to offering support either hands-on or financial to others in need. It’s an unfortunate fact that not all donated funds reach their intended destinations. How do you know if that charity is a cheat or legitimate?

Without fail, if there’s money involved in an activity, there will be scammers out there who find a way to use that opportunity to make money for themselves. Charitable donations are no exception to the rule. You can count on the number of scam charities to be greater in number the larger is the crisis or topic at hand. There are a number of ways to help you decide which charities are on the up-and-up as opposed to those with ulterior motives.

Tips to Help You Determine if a Charity is Legitimate 

  • Review donation requests carefully. In a time of a disaster or large-scale tragedy, there are many reasonably-sounding would-be charities that pop up on social media, through phone calls or even at your door. Rather than taking them at face value, take some time to investigate the legitimacy of the charity before donating your money.
  • You can use various resources to determine if a charity is who they say they are: Check with the Better Business Bureau Charity Guide; your state’s attorney general’s office; Charity Navigator; the Internal Revenue Service’s Select Check; GuideStar; call the organization the charity purports to represent, such as the teachers’ union or police department, to check if truly representing that organization.
  • Be alert for look-alike charity organizations or websites. Check by calling the organization to ensure they are who they say they are.
  • Newly-formed charities when a disaster such as a hurricane or other natural disaster strikes may be well-intentioned but lack the experience to get donated funds where they need to go in a timely manner. This doesn’t make them cheat charities, but your donated money may be more useful given to an experienced charity.
  • Never agree to donate money over the phone. Ask instead for the charity to send you their information in writing, after which you’ll consider your options.
  • Don’t give out your debit card or credit card numbers.
  • Crowdfunding is another method of asking for donated funds. While some of the requests are legitimate, some of them are from people who purport to be someone they are not or representing a cause they are not. Be sure the request has a privacy policy to ensure your information will be treated confidentially.

Watch Out for These Types of Behavior – Often Signs of a Scam

  • High pressure tactics – someone who tries to rush you into a decision or guilt you into donating.
  • Reluctance or refusal to provide written information to you on the charity: If you don’t receive the information you requested in writing, it’s best to avoid that charity.
  • Scanty details – if the charity cannot answer to your satisfaction how your donation would be used, how much would go to the charity’s administration or its representative’s overhead, or any other information you deem to be important.
  • Requests for a check to be made out to an individual rather than the charity.
  • Insistence that payment must be made over the phone, providing your debit card, gift card ot credit card.


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