Tips for Evading Fake Online Charities

scamIn the wake of Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon comes caution to watch out for fake charities run by criminals who exploit national tragedy via the Internet. Over a dozen charity domains were registered in regards to Boston with names like “bostonmarathondonations.com”, “bostonmarathonvictimfund.com” and “bostonmarathonattack.com”.

To avoid giving money to a fake charity, consider donating to well-established organizations like the Red Cross, Boston Children’s Hospital or One Fund Boston. If an individual is considering donating to a different organization, the following 5 tips may help you avoid any charity scam, especially prevalent following a natural disaster or horrific act:

  1. Check the organization online. Contact the State Attorney General or the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) to find out if the organization is officially registered. Watchdog sites guidestar.org and charitynavigator.org are also recommended.
  2. Don’t trust viral stories from supposed victims. In the wake of a national tragedy, dozens of heart-breaking stories circulate through social media and email. Don’t make any donations to individuals with whom there stands no personal relationship or verification of the claims.
  3. Don’t give in to pressure to donate. Even in times of need, a legitimate charity will never pressure anyone to donate. If an individual soliciting donations is rude, threatening, or refuses to answer questions, it’s unlikely that they’re representing a real charity. Call the organization they claim to represent.
  4. Stop and remember past donations. Charity scammers often try to build trust with their victims by thanking them for past donations. If contacted, pause and think about your history of donations. A legitimate charity will be able to provide the date of the donation or other verifying information.
  5. Watch out for unsolicited text messages. Be wary of any text messages asking for donations. Although legitimate charities can receive donations via text message, it is highly improbable that they will send out unsolicited text messages for help.
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