'Tis the season for gift giving. For many Americans, that sharing extends from family and friends to charitable donations, something charities count on this time of year - especially this year, with so many families experiencing acute need due to the pandemic.
Unfortunately, scammers view the holiday season as an opportunity to take advantage of that giving spirit. They make bogus phone calls – often spoofing legitimate charities' phone numbers – or may even create fake charities to try to steal your money or personal information. Sometimes their pitches include added enticements, such as end-of-the-year tax write-offs.
Don't let scammers stifle your charitable spirit. A little advanced research can ensure your contributions are reaching the intended recipients.
To avoid becoming a victim of holiday charity scams:
- Donate to trusted, well-known charities. Beware of scammers who create fake charities. Always verify a charity's legitimacy through its official website. If you have doubts, you can check with Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
- Check with the National Association of State Charity Officials on whether charities must be registered in your state and, if so, whether the charities contacting you are registered.
- Verify all phone numbers for charities. If you need to contact a charity by phone or using text-to-donate, check the charity's official website to see if the number you have is legitimate.
- Do not open suspicious emails. If you receive a suspicious email requesting donations or other assistance, do not click on any links or open any attachments. Scammers regularly use email for phishing attacks and to spread malware.
- Verify information in online solicitations. Double-check any social media solicitation for charitable donations before you give. Crowd-funding websites often host individual requests for help, but they are not always vetted by the site or other sources to ensure legitimacy.
Many other government agencies and consumer groups have also published alerts and helpful information warning about charitable giving scams. Here are a few additional resources to help you avoid falling prey to fraudsters this holiday season:
- IRS: "Dirty Dozen" Scams
- FTC Video: How to Avoid Veteran Charity Scams
- AARP: How to Avoid Charity Scams
Watch out for spoofing
One more reminder: Scammers often spoof phone numbers that appear in your caller ID display to try to trick you into answering the phone. They might try spoofing a legitimate charity's number or use a local number so you'll think the caller is someone you know. Don't answer calls from unknown numbers. And if you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
Scammers can be very convincing. We advise that you play it safe and hang up on unsolicited calls seeking donations or requesting personal information to "update records."
Learn more about how you can avoid spoofing scams at fcc.gov/spoofing.
Please consider sharing this post in the spirit of the season.
Happy Holidays from the FCC!