It is human nature to want to lend a helping hand during a disaster or tragedy. With today’s technology charities can accept online giving quickly and easily. As the generous population looks online for a way to help, scammers are creating websites, emails, crowdfunding campaigns, and social media accounts to deceive people.
Charity Navigator, a leading independent charity evaluator, researches the validity of fundraising campaigns for some of the largest charities in America. The site suggests that those wanting to contribute to an organization practice due diligence by researching the charitable site or campaign. Scammers view disasters and tragedies as opportunities.
During Hurricane Katrina, the FBI reported that over 4,000 fake websites were created to defraud people, according to Charity Navigator. The fake accounts were created even before the hurricane made landfall and for weeks thereafter. Scammers rely on the human desire to help each other during difficult times. This makes the generous population a profitable target, however there are a few ways to identify an online fundraising scam.
Donate To Reputable Charities
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recommends only donating to known credible fundraising charities. Watch for newly created websites with the cause listed in the URL like www.katrinahelp.com. Instead look for websites ending with .org and research each charity using a charity evaluator to verify credibility.
Experts suggest going straight to the charity’s website instead of using a search engine as scammers can create phishing sites that look like the organization’s actual website.
Research Crowdfunding Campaigns
Using crowdfunding to help support people during a crisis is popular. The problem with crowdfunding campaigns is verifying credentials and making sure the funds are used appropriately. Anyone can create a campaign. The home page for crowdfunding site, Crowdrise, boasts that you can “create a fundraiser website in less than 42 seconds.”
Before donating to a crowdfunding campaign, check to see if the campaign has news coverage, not just social media sharing. Only consider donating to causes you trust.
Confirm Secure Transactions
The Huffington Post suggests checking to make sure the donation page has a valid Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Certificate to keep scammers from stealing your information. The website URL will begin with “https” if it is secure and card numbers will be encrypted. Never enter information like your social security number when only donating funds.
Use Caution When Clicking Email Links
DHS recommends using caution when opening emails regarding fundraising campaigns. Scammers send phishing emails to try to obtain personal information. Report phishing emails through your email server. Only open emails from legitimate charity organizations you are subscribed to receive.
Any unsolicited emails with attachments should be deleted without opening. Scammers may send fake fundraising emails with viruses attached. These SPAM emails should be reported to your email server.
During a disaster, tragedy, or crisis is when people need to help one another. You can continue being generous just be cautious. Scammers try new things all the time. Follow these tips and you are less likely to become the next victim.