As the end of the year approaches, many wonderful, reputable charities will begin reaching out to their members and potential members for a donation. There are so many reasons to give to others and, since the holidays can be especially hard for those who are less fortunate, millions of Americans show their generous spirit at this time of year.
See Also: Holiday Hoaxes
As you consider to whom you would like to give, remember that the holidays are also a busy time for scam artists. It is always a good idea to be especially careful so that your kind donation does not end up in the wrong hands.
Sid Kirchheimer writes Scam Alert and covers consumer issues for the AARP Bulletin. Sid warns against being defrauded through charity scams. “Scammers often use sound-alike names of well-known and respected charities,” he says. “Or they invent ones purporting to help with four "hot-button" causes that target older donors in particular: police and firefighters, sick or needy children, victims of recent natural disasters, and veterans.”
There are certain steps you can take, however, to reduce the risk of fraud. First or all, keep track of the names and contact information of the charitable organizations who have been the beneficiaries of your donations in the past. Are you getting solicitations from unfamiliar charities? If so, do some research. Who are they? Where are they? How did they find you? If you get the solicitation by email, be especially careful and don’t click on any links that are embedded within the email. It could lead you to a dummy site that only looks legitimate.
If someone calls you for support of a certain charity, ask them to send you the paperwork in advance before agreeing to any donation. Make sure you ask them for their contact information as well. That way you can follow up yourself and do more detective work.
The Maine Office of Securities can certainly help you identify which organizations are legitimate. Their office has many materials available and they are more than happy to answer your questions in their efforts to stop fraud in its tracks. Call the Maine Office of Securities toll-free at 1-877-624-8551 (toll free in Maine) or 207-624-8551.
Finally, consider turning on the Maine identity theft security freeze, the best line of defense against many fraud tactics.
Again, the Maine Office of Securities has an excellent website that can take you through the process of turning on the freeze and leaving would-be thieves out in the cold.
You’ve worked hard for your money and if an organization is lucky enough to gain your support, you want to be certain that your money is going to the right place.