Charity scams are all over the place, but the tactics used by scammers as of late have been pulling at our hearts. They use major events such as the Syrian refugee crisis, the Nepal Earthquake, or even floods in the Philippines to get us to part with our money. No one’s blaming you if you fell victim, but be aware that not every person claiming to represent a charity is legit.

What makes charity scams so frustrating is the fact that we genuinely want to help. We think we’re doing a good thing by donating to these causes, but all we’re doing is empowering individuals who only care about themselves.

The tactics scammers use can be incredibly sophisticated, but sometimes they’ll just come up to you in person and try to catch you off guard. It can be near impossible to distinguish a real charity from a fake one when we’re put on the spot, but here are some clear signs that you might be dealing with a charity scam.

charity scams

5 Signs you’re dealing with a a charity scam

1. They only take cash – Charity scams are pretty obvious when they’ll only accept cash. Any legit charity should have no issues accepting a cheque in the legal name of the charity. If they ask for donations to be made via wire transfer or a gift card instead, then you know they’re trying to scam you.

2. They have no profile – Real charities will have a phone number and website where you can reach them to get information about their organization. Keep in mind that it is possible to clone phone numbers, so if you’re given a number over the phone, cross reference it with the number listed on the official webpage. If you really want to make sure they’re real, you can ask them questions about their business. Try asking them how much of your donation is spend on expenses as opposed to what makes it to those in need; they should be able to give you a response right away.

3. Donations are requested by e-mail – You would think by now that the general public would be smart enough to avoid e-mail phishing scams, but it really is an easy way for scammers to reach a large audience. It only takes a few people to donate for this scam to be worth while for scammers. Just like all phishing scams, any website they link you to may seem real, but thy aren’t. Legit charities will not send e-mails asking for donations.

4. They call you on the phone – In the past charities used to ask for donations over the phone, but its not common practice anymore due to all the fraud out there. The reason scammers try to get you on the phone is similar to why they send out e-mails asking for donations, they only need a few responses to make money. If anyone asks me for money over the phone I tend to just hang up. If you think they might be real, but you’re not sure, ask for a call back number and cross reference tip #2.

5. They only take donations on the spot – The most common charity scams are right in front of us. Quite often you might have someone approach you in the mall or on the street asking you for a donation on the spot. Legit charities do outreach on the street, but they’ll never ask you for a donation on the spot – The Salvation Army and Veteran’s being the exceptions – they’ll refer you to the official website where you can do additional research before deciding if you want to make a donation.

Final word

It sounds a bit silly, but we all need to do a little bit of due diligence when we decide to donate to charity. I recommend doing your research in advance and then donating once a year. The advantage of this is you’ll know exactly where your money is doing and then you won’t feel pressured if someone asks you for a donation on the spot.