Watch out for Charity Fraud

According to the Giving USA Foundation’s annual report on U.S. philanthropy, Americans contributed nearly $485 billion to charity in 2021. Unfortunately, this willingness to donate money opens a door for scammers, who capitalize on donor’s goodwill to steal money. Charity fraud scammers succeed by mimicking the real thing.

This fraud is an example of Relationship and Trust Fraud under the Fed’s FraudClassifer model.

HOW TO IDENTIFY THREAT: Scammers solicit “donations” by contacting victims using the same channels as legitimate charities, such as telemarketing, direct mail, email, door-to-door solicitations, social media, crowdfunding platforms, and cold calls. Scammers may also use natural disasters or other emergencies to commit fraud. For instance, scammers may commit insurance fraud against natural disaster victims, re-victimizing people whose homes or businesses were damaged by the disaster.

HOW TO PROTECT AGAINST THIS THREAT: Real charities will accept donations using any method available to the donor, such as ACH debit, check, or credit/debit card. Scammers will request payments immediately using payment methods that are difficult to trace and provide the scammer guaranteed funds such as cash, gift card, virtual currency, Instant Payment, or wire transfer. Donors should verify the charity’s names and web addresses before donating. Consumers should also keep records of their donations and view their bank accounts regularly to ensure they weren’t charged the incorrect amount or unknowingly signed up for a reoccurring donation. Consumers who find incorrect or unauthorized entries on their accounts can dispute entries with their financial institution.

The Internal Revenue Service maintains an online database where consumers can check whether an organization is a registered charity and whether their donation is tax-deductible. Click here.

A victim of charity fraud can report it to the FTC and the government agency in their state that regulates charities. The consumer can further report a charity fraud to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or visit for more information.

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