When disaster strikes, we often look to, and see, many charitable organizations stepping up to provide the much needed support to those affected. It’s during these times that these organizations see an uptick in contributions. Without our support, many of these charities would not be able to operate. When our hearts ache for those in harm’s way, and we receive a call for aid, we respond by giving.
Unfortunately, there are opportunists waiting in the wings to exploit those that need help. This month’s tips will help you evaluate which organization fits your passion and interests and also help determine if it’s a legitimate organization.
If you are a Medicare recipient, read the warning below about the new cards being sent out.
P.S. I know this sounds like a set up for a joke, but speaking of charitable organizations: In 1887, right here in Denver, Colorado, a nun, two ministers, a priest and a rabbi got together to plan the first united campaign for ten health and welfare agencies– this was the beginning of the first United Way in the US.
Give Wisely After A Disaster
As this newsletter is being drafted, we are watching and wondering what damage hurricane Florence will bring to the east coast. Emergency preparations are in place and those in the path of the hurricane are being updated on what they can do to protect themselves. But what about those of us who are standing ready to help with donations after the hurricane? Here’s what you need to know about how to avoid charity relief fraud.
If you want to provide assistance, first and foremost, make sure you know exactly where you are sending your money. If you are not diligent, you may end up being victimized by an opportunist scammer hoping to take advantage of your generosity. The best way to avoid charity fraud is to go online and do your research to make sure your money goes to a reputable organization.
- Research– search for a cause you want to connect with. Use search phrases like “hurricane relief” or “homeless children.”
- Payment – Don’t pay by cash, gift card or by wiring money. That’s how scammers collect, not legitimate charities. Instead pay with a check or credit card. If you are paying through an online portal make sure you know how your money is getting to the charity.
Use these organizations to help research charities:
These organizations offer reports and ratings about how charitable organizations spend donations and how they conduct business:
The IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search will identify if your donation is tax deductible. The Colorado state charity regulator link and other important consumer resources can be found on our Denver District Attorney website under the Consumer Protection tab. In order to ask for donations, Colorado requires a charity, or its fundraiser, to formally register the organization. If you believe you were approached by charity scammers or were a victim of charity scams, connect with your state charity regulator and report it to the FTC.gov/complaint.
W.W.S.D. – (what would scammers do?)
Be alert for scammers tricks! Scammers love to:
- Rush you into making a donation.
- Trick you into paying them by thanking you for your “previous donation” that you never made.
- Change the caller ID to make it look like a local call and area code.
- Use names that sound a lot like the names of real charities.
- Give vague claims and sentimental stories about their “work” but provide no specifics on how your donation will be used.
- Say that your donation is tax-deductible.
- Ask you to pay via money card or wiring the money.
If you get a call from a new charity, ask them to mail you their information. If there is nothing to send, it’s likely there is nothing legit about the charity.
Social Security Fishing Scams Targeting Coloradans
For those of you who have attended our seminars on fraud and scams, you’ve already been made aware that the new Medicare cards being sent to consumers are attracting scammers. Recently, Attorney General Coffman and the AARP Foundation issued a warning about this scam already gaining momentum in Colorado. Here is the alert:
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman and the AARP Foundation ElderWatch program alerted Colorado consumers about callers claiming to be with the Social Security Administration (SSA). These imposters claim to be investigators or attorneys with the SSA and are telling consumers that their Social Security account is being used fraudulently. These callers are urging consumers to call back immediately or risk not getting their Social Security check the next month.
“These calls are yet another imposter scam,” said Attorney General Coffman. “This is an attempt to get worried consumers on the phone in order to obtain confidential personal or financial information.” Amy Nofziger with the AARP Foundation ElderWatch program stated that her office has seen a “major uptick” in the number of calls it has been receiving about this scam. “This is an attempt at identity theft, pure and simple,” said Nofziger. The Denver District Attorney’s office Fraud Hotline (720-913-9179) is receiving similar calls from consumers.
Consumers who receive these calls should hang up immediately without providing any information and, if the caller leaves a voicemail, simply delete it. “Under no circumstances should a Colorado consumer return these calls,” advised Coffman.
The Social Security Administration Office of Inspector issued its own warning about these calls in March.
If you have been victimized by this or other scams, or wish to report suspicious activity, you can file a report online on the Colorado Attorney General’s website or by calling 1-800-222-4444 or by calling our Fraud Hotline 720-913-9179.