INDIANAPOLIS — Giving Tuesday is a time for many of us to donate to our favorite charities and causes, but you need to take important steps to protect your money and personal information.
A third of charitable giving happens between Christmas and New Years Day, and many people open their pocketbooks on Giving Tuesday.
Scammers know you’re in the giving mood, and may send you a message via text, email, social media or even call you on the phone.
Before you donate, double-check the website’s URL to make sure it’s legitimate.
Also, check the message and website for misspellings.
The Better Business Bureau said you should also be cautious if the charity asks for unusual forms of payment like iTunes gift cards.
"If you're online, always pay with your credit card whether you're buying something or in this case giving,” Tim Maniscalo, president at the Better Business Bureau Serving Central Indiana, said. “You will have the most protection. Watch out for gift cards, for wire transfers, because almost always that money is going to go outside the country."
“Not all charities are created equal,” Maniscalo said. “Some charities are doing some very good work out there, and some of them are not so good. You want to make sure the charity is spending your money on the mission they say they are working towards.”
TIPS FROM THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU:
- Watch out for name similarities. When charities seek support for the same cause, their names are often similar. Before you give, be sure you have the exact name of the charity to avoid a case of mistaken identity.
- Review the website carefully. A responsible charity will include the following facts on its website: its mission and programs, measurable goals, and concrete criteria that describe its achievements. You should also be able to find information on their finances. Keep in mind, the type of work a charity does will affect its costs.
- Avoid on-the-spot donation decisions from unfamiliar organizations. The holidays bring a higher frequency of donation requests outside public locations. Don’t succumb to pressure to make an immediate giving decision. Responsible organizations will welcome your gift tomorrow as much as they do today.
- Be wary of emotional appeals. Marketers have been known to exploit the holidays to make emotional pleas to donors. Instead of making an impulse decision based on emotion, do some research first to verify that your selected charity operates ethically.
- Check with state charity officials. In many states, charities are required to register with the office of the attorney general before soliciting. Checking your state's appropriate office is an easy way to detect if an organization is legitimate or not. You can find this information on the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) website.
- Avoid charities that don’t disclose. Although participation is voluntary, charities that don’t disclose any of the requested information to BBB WGA raise a critical red flag for donors. Visit Give.org to find out if your selected charity is nondisclosure.
- Rely on standards-based evaluations. Charities can demonstrate they are trustworthy by agreeing to in-depth evaluations such as the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. Get free access to charity reports at Give.org.
- Research tax status. Don’t assume every organization claiming to do good is a tax-exempt charity. You can check an organization’s tax status with the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search tool. Also, make sure your contribution is tax-deductible.