Don't we just all love scams? Certainly not when we fall victim to one.
Thankfully, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) identified the “Dirty Dozen Tax Scams” for 2013, so that we can keep from falling into common snares.
Let's examine the one that is directly related to the nonprofit sector and impacts the average donor: Impersonation of Charitable Organizations. This is a fraud that diverts giving by well-intentioned donors from good causes and into the pockets of scam artists. In some cases, a charity impersonator can siphon off significant and critically needed funds from legitimate tax-exempt charities. Donors and nonprofit charitable organizations should be on the lookout for these tax frauds and take steps to counteract them as much as possible.
According to the IRS, impersonating charities is especially popular following major disasters, when concerned citizens attempt to support relief efforts but get fooled by phony emails, telephone calls, or websites pretending to be legitimate charities collecting donations for victims. These tactics are also common near holidays, but they can occur when there is no obvious link to a particular event. Sometimes the scammers use fictitious names and bogus email or Internet addresses that are very similar to those used by legitimate charities, trolling for donors who are attempting to give to a particular organization.
Donors and nonprofit charities can help uncover impersonation frauds by taking these steps:
- Donors: Checking a charities rating and legitimacy on Charity Navigator when receiving solicitation materials and before donating.
- Charities: Regularly searching the Internet for websites and organizations that have names that are almost identical or closely similar and then checking Charity Navigator which lists all nonprofit organizations, their tax-exempt status and charities with donor advisories to beware off.
- Charities: Alert past and active donors about the possibility of charity impersonation frauds and advise them to donate only to recognized charities, not to give out personal financial information, and not to give or send cash
- Donors: Contact known organizations to report any suspicions or contact the IRS and/or law enforcement directly
- Call the IRS toll-free disaster assistance telephone number (1-866-562-5227) to report suspicious charities operating in the wake of disasters
- Fill out IRS Form 3949-A to report suspicions of tax law violations by individuals or businesses
Beware! There really are scams out there. Don't get caught in a snare.