Charity Scam tips - what to avoid

How can you help with Japan and the disaster there? What about the refugees you see fleeing from oppressive regimes? Of course, we are all familiar with the faces of the hungry children worldwide who need someone to donate some cash.

Unfortunately for all the good people out there who want to help there are bad people looking to reap a profit from the misery. These scammers will set up websites right after a disaster occurs. These scam artists are particularly good at "plishing" emails and spam to steal from the good Samaritans.

Here are some tips on how to prevent fraud and make sure your donation goes to the needy:

  • Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by checking their status at this website.
  • Do not click on links from unsolicited email.
  • Do not respond to unsolicited email - delete, delete, delete.
  • Go directly to an organized charity's website rather than following an apparent link. Check out credentials including the soliciting company's telephone number and name.
  • Be extremely skeptical of any individual who says they survived a disaster or are a foreign government official looking for money by putting money in an overseas bank account. Do not send money by a Western Union or other money wire to such an account.
  • Do not open emails that say they have pictures of a disaster area in attached files. These attached files can have a virus. Do not open an attachment unless you know the sender.
  • Avoid cash donations and do not give out money to a courier. Write a cheque to the charity directly and always get a receipt.
  • Be wary of any group that claims 100% of donations go to assist the victims. There are almost always administration costs. Remember that if something sounds too good to be true then it is likely false.
  • Never, ever give out your credit card number or your bank account number to an unknown solicitor.

If you do encounter an organization that you suspect is scamming then you should report it to your local authorities or to Crimestoppers.