Skip to main content

BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

’Tis the season for giving…and scamming

Dec 05, 2016 10:54AM ● By Megan Terlecky

Scammers know the holiday season tends to bring out the generosity in us and they aim to take advantage. Before you open your generous heart this holiday season, know to whom you’re giving. Many scammers call to pose as a charity over the phone, asking for a donation. How do you know if a legitimate charity is calling or if it’s a scammer?

What’s in a name?

Pay attention to the charity’s name. Scammers will set up fake charities that sound very similar to nationally recognized nonprofits to try and fool you. Always look up the name of the charity that is asking for your money.

Red flags

Watch out for these indicators that a charity might be a scam.

• The caller doesn’t give you details. You should know about its mission, costs and how the donation will be used.

• There’s no proof that your contribution is tax deductible.

• The caller asks for donations in cash, a prepaid card or asks you to wire money.

• The caller thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making.

• The caller tries to pressure you to donate immediately, without giving you time to think about it and do your research.  A good way to get people off the phone is to ask for the charity’s website so you can learn more about it.

They guarantee you the chance to win money through a sweepstakes in exchange for a contribution. By law, you never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.

Police charity scams

Figuring out the legitimacy of people who call to collect money on behalf of police and firefighters can be tricky. The key here is to do your research so you know whom you are giving your money to.

Locally, Back the Badge and County Sheriffs of Colorado support law enforcement. Concerns of Police Survivors, or COPS, is a nationally recognized charity for law enforcement. Most of these charities don’t ask for donations over the phone.

Do your research.

• Ask for detailed information about the charity, including its name, address and telephone number.

• Search the exact name of the organization online—especially with the words “complaint(s)” or “scam.”

• Check on the charity’s nonprofit status online with the IRS at www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/exempt-organizations-select-check

• Call the charity. Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name.

Who should you give to?

When giving to charities this holiday season, stick with who you know and try to stay local. Ask where the money is going, as not all money given to nationally recognized charities stays in the area. United Way of Mesa County has done a lot of the work for you. You can check out the list of local charities they support at www.unitedwaymesacounty.org.

You can also find legitimate charities at www.guidestar.org or the Better Business Bureau’s charity website, www.give.org.

Not everyone who asks for a donation is a scammer. There are many credible groups who do a lot of good in our community. If you do come across a scam, however, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission by visiting www.ftc.gov/complaint.

Sign up for our Newsletter

* indicates required
I am a...