• Beware of Fake Charities

    fake charity scamsIn the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, there has been a steep increase in foundations and charitable organizations contributing to the relief efforts. Unfortunately, this has also created an opportunity for scam artists and thieves to set up fake charities, luring would-be donators into giving away their money with no intention of using the “donations” for good.

    To protect yourself from these fake charities, you should first try to stick with nationally reputable organizations like the Red Cross, or organizations you know personally, like your church or local civic group.

    If you’re donating online, there are a few ways to check to see if your charity of choice is indeed reputable. First, try looking up the domain name on a site like www.whois.com – this will let you know where the domain is registered, and to whom. You can also perform a free search of the IRS database to make sure that the charity is registered as a nonprofit.

    If you can’t find an organization name, ask about a tax ID number (FEIN), or a copy of their IRS Form 990 – charities are required by law to disclose this information. You can also check www.guidestar.org, a charity review site that functions like the Better Business Bureau.

    With hundreds of domains popping up after the Sandy Hook tragedy, potential donators should be skeptical of unfamiliar charity organizations, and should definitely perform some diligent research to make sure their money is actually going to the cause they support. This is an unfortunate reality, but some people want to exploit people’s good intentions by operating fake charities.

    If you encounter a charity that seems suspect, or the background research just doesn’t add up to the image of a reputable company, report to your state’s Attorney General or file a complaint at www.ic3.gov.

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