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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


Unknown said...

The statement made is not reflective of groups banding together to get PPE and are connected to another 501C3. Please correct.

Unknown said...

I have used Charity Navigator for the past 4 years to vet the solicitors. I am retired and don't have a lot of money, so I appreciate your service. When I found out you need donations, I have donated every year to you. Thank you

Unknown said...

Many of the local organizations providing food and shelter to those in need are themselves in greater need right now. There are several I donate to regularly, and I know they are real, not scams. I have made special, extra, additional donations in this time of need to known and reliable charities.

Anonymous said...

excellent advice which I have been following since Charity Navigator launched.

Unknown said...

I like also CN's rating of Charities! I get many requests for donations, and if they aren't rated I don't give! I also like knowing whether a charity has actually accomplished anything! Too many charities make claims about what they intend to achieve, but unless they provide evidence of actually accomplishing anything I direct future requests to "spam"!

clincher said...

Using a photo of Obama is potential mistake. Understanding that use of Obama's call for charity through Charity Navigator is a good thing, but should one post the article to social media sites, lining up the Obama photo with a headline about charity scams sends a mixed message and opens interpretations up to those eager for opportunities to cast Obama in particular and liberals in general in as negative imagery as possible.

truckle said...

Thank you for valuable work

Unknown said...

We have been getting more than the usual number of calls from persons purporting to be fundraising for police organizations. The one today was called something like Police Action Project, or something like that. The callers also seem to be more skilled at "schmoozing" and making you feel that they are really interested and appreciative of anything you can do to help out, and try to rub on your sympathy for the difficult job the police have now in the days of COVID-19. When I try to look for the organization, I cannot even find the name on the site. I simply tell them that we have donated to police organizations before, are on a fixed income, and cannot take on any new charities. Now I will start asking them some smart questions as well. Thanks.

Abdulrahim said...

Thank you for writing about this important topic at this time of crisis. Thanks for sharing your experience and tips!