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Monday, March 23, 2020

Avoiding Charity Scams During COVID-19


Philanthropic leaders like Barack Obama are encouraging financially-able people to help those hit hardest by COVID-19. After the former president’s encouraging tweet, we saw a 500% increase in dollars donated through Charity Navigator’s Giving Basket. This is an important indicator, that during difficult times, Americans band together to help those who help others. Disasters bring out the best in each other. However, sometimes they also bring out the worst.

The Federal Trade Commission has warned against COVID-19 charity scams, as scammers take advantage of fears during a disaster to prey on the generosity of donors. So, how can you make sure your donations are actually going to reputable charities with designated funds to support communities around the world affected by the outbreak?

First things first: Are they a registered public 501(c)(3) organization?
Here at Charity Navigator, we always stress this question. Ask the charity what their EIN is. If they don’t have one -- don’t donate. Once they give you their EIN, you can find them on the Charity Navigator site. If you can’t -- don’t donate. (Of course, there are organizations who are brand new who haven't yet filed their first Form 990, so ask if they're a newly opened organization, which would explain why they're not on the Charity Navigator site).

Second: What are the organization’s mission, goals, and history of success?
If a charity struggles to answer these questions, consider giving elsewhere. If you get robocalls from random numbers where you aren’t able to ask these important questions, hang up! The same is true if you receive texts and emails from numbers and addresses you aren’t familiar with. It’s important to double-check who the senders are, as some may be trying to pose as the CDC or FTC. Simply, do not click any links from sources you don’t know. You want your donation to go far to support a cause you care about that is making a palpable difference with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Organizations should take the time to answer your questions -- your donation should be valuable to them, just like the time they’re spending building a relationship with you. If the fundraiser who contacts you refuses to answer these questions, leads you around in a circle, or tries to pass off these questions as not important, your donation will be better served elsewhere.

Third: Google it!
Seek out the charity’s website to validate their work. During and after disasters like COVID-19, individuals are likely to set up fake websites claiming to be a charity. Make sure you can find the nonprofit’s EIN somewhere on their website or donation page to know that the money is going to the right place. Most nonprofits also have .org website rather than .com’s.

Fourth: Use Charity Navigator
If you want to make sure your donation is going to a real charity and to one that uses your donation well, use Charity Navigator’s Giving Basket. Our Giving Basket is a secure, easy, and convenient way to give to the causes you care about that only allows donations to legitimate charities, making sure you don’t donate to a fraudulent appeal. On top of that, we have a COVID-19 relief list of vetted, trustworthy charities that are supporting relief in the medical field, direct relief to individuals, and more.

Written by Giana Lozano, Marketing & Communications Assistant at Charity Navigator

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