The last few months of the year can be a big fundraising period for many non-profit organizations. You may have noticed a large increase in the amount of donation solicitations you receive in the fall and winter. National giving campaigns like “Giving Tuesday” and “Colorado Gives Day” also occur around the holidays encouraging consumers to make a charitable gift. People tend to donate more often during the holiday season and consumers may want to enjoy the tax benefits that can come with making a charitable gift before the end of the year.
Charities are not the only ones who have noticed this trend. As with other current events, scammers may try to use the generosity of the holiday giving season for their own personal gain. Charity fraud comes in many forms including fake charities, imposter charities, and scams against real charities, leaving consumers to wonder, “Is this solicitation from a legitimate charity or is it a scam?” Taking extra steps to thoroughly research any organization you’re considering for a charitable contribution will help ensure that your gift is used in the ways you intended it to be used.
Tips for Holiday Donating:
1. Be wary of high pressure sales tactics. Charitable organizations will be happy to accept your donation at any time.
2. Research charities before making a donation to see how your gift will be used. Websites like www.CheckTheCharity.com, the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Navigator have resources to help you conduct your research.
3. Watch out for charities with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. Sometimes these “sound-alike” names are simply intended to confuse donors.
4. Be cautious of “look-alike” websites. These fraudulent websites will often ask for personal financial information or may download harmful malware to your computer.
5. Do not assume that charity recommendations on crowd-funding websites, social media, and blogs have already been vetted or are tax deductible. Research the charity/fundraiser yourself to ensure your donations are going where you intend them to.
6. If you receive an email or text message asking for a donation, confirm the donation request is from the charity. Use an online search engine to locate the direct contact information for the charity to ensure the solicitation is not from an imposter.
7. Be cognizant of strong emotional appeals -- take some time to examine the charity's claims and to consider alternatives.
8. Be suspicious if the solicitor insists on receiving funds in an alternative way for instance, gift cards or wire transfer. Be especially wary if the solicitor is urging you donate immediately.
9. Ask for the solicitor’s registration number and the registration number of the charity they are representing. The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office requires charitable solicitors to be registered with their office. You can check into the registrations online.
10. Ask every solicitor and charity if the donation is tax deductible. Charities must indicate their tax-exempt status in their registration statements. However, tax exempt does not necessarily mean that contributions are tax deductible. Visit the IRS website to check if a charitable donation is tax deductible.
November is Colorado Consumer Protection Month (CCPM), a statewide initiative of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to increase public knowledge of consumer fraud issues, including raising awareness of current scams and financial abuses affecting Coloradans. Join us as we celebrate throughout the holidays with law enforcement, regulatory entities, non-profit programs, and private sector partners across the state to help Coloradans learn how to identify, prevent and report fraudulent activity. For more tips on holiday charitable giving and fraud prevention, visit the CCPM website here
For more information relating to charitable scams, please visit the Charity Fraud Center. If you believe you have been victimized by a donation scam or wish to report suspicious activity, please file a report here.