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Tips for avoiding charity scams

As calls for donations increase, keep these tips in mind to avoid losing your well-intentioned money to a scam.

Recognize common scam periods. While scams and other ploys can arise at any time, they often increase while emotions are running high — like near the holidays or following a natural disaster — when people let their guard down and are eager to support those in need. Such scams may request donations from you over the phone, through the mail, via email or even on social media. They might include charity names that are very similar to legitimate charities, or even mention recent genuine emergency relief efforts. Their goal is to look as authentic as possible in hopes of tricking you.

Take your time. Be wary of any sense of urgency to donate.

Do your research. Don’t be afraid to ask for details about an organization. The charity should happily provide them. You can also find a third-party source for information such as Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.

The friends and family rule. Never send money to someone you have not met in person, and never share your banking or credit card information.

Be cautious of email links. Instead of clicking on links in a donation request email, open a new browser window to navigate to the charity’s official website and donate there.

Trust your instincts.  If you notice any red flags or feel uncertain about the situation, don’t donate. You may just be right after all.

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