This time of year truly is the season of giving: A Charity Navigator survey found that charities receive 41% of their annual donations in the last few weeks of the year.
According to TODAY, the average American donates about $2,500 a year to charity—which is great for the causes, but also a big chunk of change that scammers would love to get in on.
As a result, internet scams revolving around charitable giving are on the rise.
If you’re planning to open your wallet to give back this year, here’s what you need to know.
Why You Should Be Cautious
Crowdfunding, which allows individuals as well as organizations to raise money for their causes online, has increased opportunities for scams online.
Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, told TODAY, “Don’t assume that the organizations or individuals on those sites have necessarily been vetted to any great degree. They may have verified that the organization has tax-exempt status, and that may be it.” So while you may be able to take a deduction for your donation, there’s no way to know where your cash is actually going.
You also need to be careful when typing in the names of sites in your search bar. Some scammers buy up URLs that are almost-but-not-quite the same as the addresses of charity sites in hopes that you’ll type incorrectly and send your cash their way, added Bill Kowalski, director of operations at Rehmann Corporate Investigative Services.
How to Protect Yourself
There are two key ways to make sure you don’t fall victim to a charity scam: Do your research and refrain from making snap decisions.
Kowalski tells TODAY that your best bet is to stick to well-known charities with proven track records when you make your donations. Sites like Charity Navigator and CharityWatch vet organizations to make sure they’re legitimate, and the website GiveWell also ranks their effectiveness.
If you run into a story that really pulls your heartstrings, but it’s a new charity you’ve never heard of before, make sure to do your due diligence before your philanthropic duty.
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