Protecting yourself

Take steps to protect credit card information when donating to charities

Connie Prater

It’s sad, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning consumers about the potential for scam artists to solicit donations for recent tornado and flood victims. The scammers may call you pretending to work for a legitimate charitable organization, but what they really want is to get your credit card information, bank account number or cash. The money never reaches the intended victims and you may have opened yourself up for identity theft or fraud.

Duped into donating
The FTC offers the following tips to avoid getting duped into donating:

  • Do NOT give out your credit card or bank account information unless you have verified that the charity and cause are legitimate.
  • Don’t let emotional appeals to patriotism or pity sway you into making a donation you wouldn’t otherwise make.
  • Know who you are donating to by asking the name of the charity. Ask what percent of your contribution will actually go to the victim or cause.
  • Call the charity or local group that is supposed to benefit from your donation to verify that the phone or mail appeal is legitimate. You can also verify a charity’s tax status online through the IRS, and use an online service such as Charity Navigator to see how much similar charities spend on administrative overhead.
  • Avoid giving cash, which can be lost or stolen. The FTC recommends paying by check made payable to the beneficiary — not the person soliciting the money.

See related: When charitable donations go bad, Protecting yourself from identity theft

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  • Good advice when donating to any charity. An alternative to donating funds is to run a clothing drive, or if you’re crafty, whipping up a quilt with the help of friends, or knitting something to donate. Some of these people lost everything!