Protecting Yourself From Online Scams
Your decision to make a donation is generous, but you need to be vigilant if you plan to make that donation online. Scammers are looking to steal not just your money, but also your personal information. Follow these steps to protect yourself and ensure that your money gets to the causes you wish to support.
Do Not Respond To Email Solicitations
Unless you’ve signed up to receive a charity’s electronic communications, be skeptical of email solicitations. Although you may receive an email that appears to come from a valid organization, as a general rule legitimate organizations do not solicit funds through email. Despite how official an email may seem it could very well be a scam. Many scams use the names of actual organizations and include a link to a website where you can make a donation. Do not follow any links within the message; these tend to be fake websites that are made to look like the organization's official site. Email solicitations may also include information about a foreign bank account where you can send your contribution. An organization requesting that you send funds to a foreign bank is always bogus.
If you are interested in donating to the charity mentioned in the email, initiate contact directly with the organization. Type out the organization's web address or call them directly. This will ensure that you have reached the organization for which you intend to make a donation.
Delete Unsolicited Emails With Attachments
Never respond to unsolicited emails, commonly referred to as SPAM. Do not open any attachments to these emails even if they claim to contain pictures of a particular tragedy. These attachments are probably viruses.
Be Inspired By Social Media, But Still Do Your Homework
Social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs deliver heart-wrenching images and information about chariable causes to our computers and phones. Many of them include pleas to donate. While these tools can be a powerful tool to inspire your desire to help, you should not blindly give via these vehicles. In fact, you should never give your credit card, password or other personal information via these requests for support. Instead, take the time to investigate the groups behind such pleas for help to ensure that it comes from a legitimate nonprofit and then go to that charity's website to make your donation.
Be Leery Of People That Contact You Online Claiming To Be A Victim
Anyone alleging to be in this position is most likely part of a scam. People affected by a disaster or afflicted by a disease are in no position to contact you directly for assistance.
Seek Out The Charity’s Authorized Website
The results of a general web search on Google, Yahoo or another search engine may include a fraudulent site designed to look like a legitimate charity’s website. For example, even before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, criminals were setting up websites that included the keyword Katrina (such as www.katrinahelp.com and www.katrinarelief.com) in an effort to collect money and personal information. In the weeks following the devastating storm, the FBI reported that it had identified over 4,000 bogus websites that were attempting to capitalize on the goodwill of generous Americans.
So, how can you determine if a site is valid? Start by examining the web address. Most non-profit web addresses end with .org and not .com. Avoid web addresses that end in a series of numbers. Also, bogus sites often ask for detailed personal information such as your social security, date of birth, or your bank account and pin information. Be extremely skeptical of these sites as providing this information makes it easy for them to steal your identity.
Your best option is to start your web search at Charity Navigator. Our analysts have done the research for you. On each charity’s ratings page we include a direct link to the organization’s authorized website.
Give Through A Reputable And Secure Service
Charity Navigator offers the convenience of online donating. A simple click of a mouse, powered by Network for Good’s secure giving system, enables donors to not only research, but also support the charities found on our site.
Don't be afraid to make a donation. Each year millions of dollars in online contributions make it safely to charitable organizations. As always, make sure that you’re giving to an established, reputable organization.