Scam Alert: Donors Beware — That Charity May Not be What it Seems



BBB ScamTracker received reports about alleged charities using tactics that consumers believe are using shady tactics to solicit donations. If an organization isn’t a charity, then the contributions are not “donations” and cannot be deducted from your taxes.

How the Scam Works

An unsolicited call shows up on the Caller ID from someone claiming to be representing a nonprofit organization. In some cases, the “charity” has a name that includes a law enforcement word (“police,” “trooper,” etc.). There are plenty of variations on this scam. The caller explains that the goal of this nonprofit is to help keep police officers, their families, or even police dogs safe.

The organization’s goals may seem noble, but it is recommended to research the organization before making a pledge. A previous BBB investigation revealed many red flags about one of these groups, including the fact that contributions are not tax-deductible, and no information is available on the organization’s president, board members, and active chapters. According to tax records, only a small fraction of donations made to the organization actually support law enforcement officers. This is just one example of how fundraisers can look and sound like a charity, but actually be lining the pockets of opportunists.

If you begin asking specific questions about the organization or how the money will be used, the caller may not answer and may be told to call a different number where your questions are also deflected or evaded. Callers often use intimidation tactics or try to make you feel guilty about not supporting their cause. Don’t fall for it!  It’s all a way to get your credit card information and a donation.

How to Avoid Donation Scams

  • Research before donating. If a nonprofit organization isn’t completely transparent, it’s impossible to know for sure the money contributed will support a good cause. Ask for documentation on how much of the contribution will be used for program services, how much will go for fundraising, and management expenses.
  • Don’t give in to intimidation tactics. If a caller makes causes discomfort through guilt or using an urgent plea to give right this minute, it’s best to simply hang up. Intimidation tactics are often used by scammers and are a red flag.
  • Check the charity’s rating on Give.org. For a charity to receive BBB accreditation, it must meet 20 Standards of Accountability covering everything from governance to fundraising. If the organization does not appear on BBB’s website, that does not mean they are not a real charity, but it can be a warning that you need to do more investigation before you give.
  • Give locally. Contact your local or state/provincial law enforcement agency and ask how you can support them. Most agencies have a non-profit “Friends of” type organization and will be happy to refer you to a more worthwhile option.

For More Information

Visit the BBB Wise Giving Alliance website, Give.org for more information on charitable giving.

If you’ve been the victim of a charity scam, help others avoid the same fate by reporting your experience at BBB.org/scamtracker.

Information courtesy of the Better Business Bureau

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