Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today

Scam Alert

7 Ways to Spot Fake Charities After a Disaster

Here's how to give without getting scammed

Explore AARP Life Reimagined

Hey Tiger, It's Time to Change Your Stripes.
Let Life Reimagined help!

4. Don't be enticed by photos

Emails or sketchy websites may have links promising photographs or video of disaster areas. Never click on them. Malware could be the result.

5. If you do entertain requests for money, do so smartly

Don't provide credit card information to a caller, even if your Caller ID indicates it's a legitimate charity (scammers have ways to make whatever number they want appear on your screen). Say no to offers to send a courier to your home to pick up a donation.

Instead, tell the caller to mail you printed information. (If the organization doesn't already have your address, do not provide it. Why tell a strange caller where you live?) Although mailed material is no guarantee of legitimacy, organizations that won't provide it are usually scams. So once you get the paperwork, see if the contact information and mailing address match what you find with your own online search or the verification websites noted above. Or simply look up the number of the charity yourself and call it.

6. Say no to door-to-door solicitors

Front-door solicitors should leave behind printed materials that allow you to vet them before mailing a check or making an online credit card donation. Avoid giving cash to strangers claiming to be collecting for charities.

7. There's no such thing as "all the money goes to charity"

Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations assist victims. All charities have fundraising and administrative costs. Legitimate organizations typically spend up to 35 percent of donations on fundraising and administrative costs (but ideally, less than 25 percent).

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

Also of Interest

Visit the AARP home page every day for great deals and for tips on keeping healthy and sharp

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


The Cheap Life

Jeff Yeager Cheap Life Ultimate Cheapskate AARP YouTube web series save money

Catch the latest episode of The Cheap Life starring Jeff Yeager, AARP's Ultimate Cheapskate. Watch

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Member Benefits HomeServe

Members can protect their homes with comprehensive repair plans from HomeServe.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can get cash back rewards on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Woman holding smartphone in city, Google map tool

Members can find discounts on the go via the AARP® Member Advantages Offer Finder app.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points


Advance your skills. Transform your career.

Explore your learning possibilities.