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Learn to Spot a Charity Scam
Con artists are experts at playing to our emotions. BBB serving Acadiana and BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers these tips on what to watch out for in a charity scam.
How the Scam Works
Scammers can use charitable causes to tug on your heartstrings and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance (Give.org) urges donors to remain vigilant in researching charities before donating to avoid questionable appeals. In recent years, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance joined with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), state Attorneys General, and state charity regulators to help the donating public avoid misleading charity appeals. Among other things, bad actors mislead the public about providing assistance to particular individuals (like veterans or cancer patients), use robocalls misrepresenting that the message is an appeal from a charity, or are a for-profit corporation holding itself out as a charity.
Donors also need to be on guard when responding to appeals in the wake of a disaster. For instance, while there are a number of ways to check out charitable organizations, it is difficult to vet individuals requesting help on crowdfunding sites.
You may stumble across such online content while surfing the web or scrolling through your social media feed. Sometimes though, fraudsters reach out to you directly via an email, social media direct messages, or even door-to-door campaigns. To help donors avoid disappointment or potential fraud, the first and most important step is to find out more about the charity before making a gift.
How to Avoid Charity Scams
- Watch out for charity name confusion. Be alert to questionable groups seeking to confuse donors with names that sound similar to charities you know.
- Resist pressure to give on the spot. Don’t give in to excessive pressure on the phone to make an immediate donation.
- Find out more about the charity. The charity’s website provides access to information on its programs, board roster and finances.
- Do an online search to reveal potential scams. Search the person or charity in question along with the words “complaint” and “scam.” What you find could reveal a dishonest scheme. BBB Scam Tracker can help you learn from others’ experiences (BBB.org/ScamTracker).
- Check for BBB charity accreditation. Visit charity reports on org to verify if the organization meets the 20 BBB Standard for Charity Accountability (i.e., a BBB Accredited Charity.)
- Check with state charity officials. In many states, charities are required to register, usually with the office of the attorney general, before soliciting.
- Don’t assume that every soliciting organization is tax exempt as a charity. You can readily check an organization’s tax status at: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/exempt-organizations-select-check
For More Information
If you’ve been the victim of a charity scam, please report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. By sharing your experience, you can help others avoid falling victim to similar scams.
“Look for the Seal” and Start with Trust®. BBB Serving Acadiana is a private non-profit organization. BBB strives for a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising, investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses.
Please contact Better Business Bureau at (337) 981-3497 24 or bbb.org 24 hours a day for information on businesses throughout North America. Consumers can also sign up for our free BBB “Scoop” eNewsletter by visiting bbb.org and clicking on the “Programs & Services” tab.
BBB Serving Acadiana services the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Landry and Vermilion.