Around the holidays, we start to feel more than a drop in temperature. There is a shift in mood as people begin to plan for the holidays. We don our holiday sweaters, reconnect with loved ones, and if we’re lucky, the only contagious thing we spread around is a bit of holiday spirit. And from this surge in joy and festivities comes the season of goodwill. Many people see the holidays as a great opportunity to donate their time, money or belongings to those in need. Unfortunately, we also see a rise in holiday scams and fraud preying on this spirit of giving. So today let’s review some safety advice from ConsumerSafety.org to protect you and your family this holiday season.
There are certain tell-tale signs to identify a charity scam:
Are you being asked to wire cash or send money overseas?
Even a charity that works in other countries will have a U.S. bank account. A legitimate charity won’t ask for funds this way, or if they do, it will be one donation option among many to choose from. Keeping your bank account information to yourself and using sites with encryption technology when paying with credit cards will help to protect your finances from scams.
Does the charity solicitor make you feel uncomfortable?
If the solicitor is asking for an immediate donation, evading questions, pestering you, asking inappropriate questions or in anyway intimidating you, remember that you are in no way obligated to continue the conversation. This behavior is commonly seen in scams, and it is your right to step away from the situation.
Did the charity send you an E-mail attachment?
Don’t open it. According to Charity Navigator, legitimate charities rarely use email attachments, preferring to direct you to their website. Scammers, however, will embed viruses into those attachment links. These viruses could give scammers the ability to steal your banking information or your identity.
Before donating to a charity, do your homework. There are plenty of sites that rate charities based on their work and the way they spend their funds. You can also ask questions directly to the solicitors if you want more information and proof that they are working for a legitimate organization. Here is a helpful charity checklist from The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to go over before donating to a charity.
Now as you make both monetary and in-kind donations this holiday season, there are a few things to remember to keep those receiving your donations safety. First off, it’s important to remember that holiday donations are not a way to declutter your home. Yes, donating gently used items can be a great way to recycle toys, clothing, or other goods that your family doesn’t use. However, those receiving these gifts deserve clean, well-maintained items, not junk. There are also some used items that shouldn’t be donated at all. For example, used safety equipment like sports pads, helmets, or car seats could risk the recipient’s safety. Used cloth toys that are difficult to sanitize could spread germs or bacteria to the child in need. Avoid these types of donations to protect those you are trying to help.
Finally, remember a monetary donation is never a “lazy” or “boring” gift. For most charities, they are able to stretch their monetary donations farther to help more people in need and cover important overhead costs to continue their mission of helping the community. A check can be a bigger blessing than you might think. If you are looking for ways to volunteer your time or charities supporting the Denver community and surrounding areas this holiday season, look into the Dolls for Daughters’ initiatives and become a force for good this season of giving!