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Staying Safe in a World of Scammers: Charity Scams


Charitable donations are a great way to make an impact on the causes you care about. But when tragedy strikes, scammers may prey on the generosity of those trying to support the victims. Scammers request donations on social media or crowdfunding websites – or contact you by phone, text, or email.

Charity scams occur when a scammer tricks people into sending them money for what they believe is a worthy cause. Be on the lookout for these common characteristics of a scam.

  • Emotional appeals. Scammers may try to tug at your heartstrings by highlighting victims of natural disasters, such as wildfires or hurricanes, with an urgent appeal for donations that purportedly go towards food or shelter. Scammers commonly try to get people to act on emotion rather than logic.
  • Unusual language and names. Pay close attention to the details in any request you receive – especially poor grammar and spelling errors. Scammers may try to slightly alter a real charity’s name or website by changing a single letter and hoping people don’t notice the difference.
  • Specific payment method. Be wary if a “charity” requires you to donate through a digital payment platform or other non-refundable payment method.

Even if a charity seems real, it’s important to research the organization and look for reviews. You can also do an online search for the name of the charity with the word “scam” or “complaints” to see if others have reported any issues. If you’re unable to verify a charity’s authenticity, you may want to donate elsewhere. When it comes to sending money, always remember to slow down and ask yourself questions. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instinct.

To learn about other scams, and ways to protect yourself, visit Zelle’s website or the FTC’s Consumer Advice site.

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