Give generously, but not to scammers
If you’d like your money to go to the right place, it is certainly your role to research and investigate rather than respond to the best marketing message. (Shutterstock)
Those who seek charity organisations to help others stand out as exceptional, generous human beings. They may not look for recognition or reward, and see their charitable acts for what they mean to them personally. But these generous acts can be wasted or, worse, backfire if the donations are handed to scammers, along with critical personal information.
Technology and social media have changed even the channels of charities. If you’re active on social media sites like Facebook, you probably come across many heart-wrenching stories of suffering that are associated with GoFundMe.com accounts seeking donations. You also may be getting some exposure to natural disasters and other tragedies across the world, which try to solicit your emotional and financial support.
So how can you choose where to donate your hard-earned money, knowing that it is going to the right cause and to the right hands? This requires research and knowledge of who is behind those requests. It also requires your ability to prioritise and donate to causes that are compatible with you, your beliefs and values, and the needs of your community. Here are a few tips to help you avoid charity scams.
Do your own research
Regardless of how the charity comes to your attention, do you independent research. Look at the charity’s website, reviews and testimonials of past work. In particular, find out the location and try to call the office to verify that the person who reached out to you is affiliated with this organisation.
You should verify that the organisation has not been involved in any fraud allegations in the past, and its work on the ground matches the goals and objectives. Read what’s written about it in independent news sources and websites. If everything seems legitimate, follow the organisation’s donation channels — rather than handing out cash to an individual.
In most cases, writing a cheque to the organisation is a good way to make sure that there will be another step of verification — through the bank — that ensures that they money ends up in the right hands. In addition, a cashed cheque in itself is a receipt for you to prove your donation, if you’d be using it for tax purposes or otherwise.
Pick the right cause
It is totally your prerogative to give your money to whatever cause you feel strongly about. But charity organisations are not all equal, and some have better marketing teams than others. So if you’d like your money to go to the right place, it is certainly your role to research and investigate rather than respond to the best marketing message.
For example, some people may choose a local cause, something to do with helping children, medical research, environment conservation or animal rescue. Again, pick whatever cause that appeals to you, but make sure that your money is channelled towards a credible organisation that works in your area of interest.
In particular, be aware of small funds and entities that pop up after every tragedy. If you’re not sure who is collecting donations for victims of an earthquake or a hurricane that happened somewhere across the globe, you best bet is to go directly to one of the major aid organisations rather than some social media based options.
Scammers might be after a lot more than just a few dirhams in donation to a particular cause. They might be after your identity. So if you receive a call or an email soliciting donation, and it appears to be legitimate, you still should make sure that you’re giving up too much personal information.
The best strategy is to avoid acting on the spot. Take the caller’s contact information, ask about what they need from you to complete your donation, and verify their legitimacy. If anything raises a red flag (a request for your bank account information, your birth date, etc), take a pause.
If you’re still interested in contributing to this cause, you could always reach out to other organisations, and ask them about their requirements and donation channels. In most cases, the process is simple to encourage more people to donate without disclosing their identity or sensitive personal or financial information.
By Rania Oteify
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