It’s a wonderful time of the year to be charitable.
Unfortunately, some see the holidays as a wonderful time for scams – taking donation dollars from unsuspecting donors and the charities and people who would otherwise benefit from them. Oftentimes they do so by posing as a charity or a representative from one themselves. All to steal credit card numbers, bank account information and even identities to use for their own good, rather than for the good of others.
So it’s a great time to go over some tips on how to donate to those less fortunate while keeping your personal information secure.
To help ensure your donation is safe for you and meaningful for those in need, here are three important tips:
1. Find out as much as you can about the charity.
In its 2012 Holiday Giving Poll, the American Red Cross found that 46 percent of survey participants consider a friend’s endorsement the most trustworthy source of information about charities. However, you really want to investigate a charity yourself if you’re considering donating to it.
Find out how much of your donation will go to those in need rather than to administrative costs and salaries. You can do some research through the Better Business Bureau or Charity Navigator. Also check the organization’s own website, as well as any news reports you can find.
2. Be careful where you click when donating online.
Only 11 percent of participants in the Holiday Giving Poll consider social media to be a trustworthy source of information about charities. And that's smart. Clicking on a social media link or even a link from an email could lead to a scam and expose you to identity theft.
To donate online, type in the charity’s URL carefully. A typo could take you to an imposter site run by criminals. Also ensure the URL on the donation page begins with “https,” indicating a secure site, rather than “http.”
3. If someone asks for a piece of your life, think twice before giving it.
In an ideal world, you could give without hesitation to people over the phone or at the door claiming to be collecting donations. It feels good be generous, after all. However, you can’t be sure these people represent the organization they say they do. Plus, donating over the phone decreases the amount you give – call center agents have to be paid.
So instead of donating over the phone or at the door, ask the solicitor for information about the charity, such as its website, so you can do some research and donate later, if you like. Don’t be pressured into giving right then in order to enter a drawing or other giveaway.
With a little research and caution, donating this holiday season will benefit those in need and help keep you safe at the same time.