The holiday season has come and gone once again, and made way for a brand new year. And with a brand new year comes the inevitable and infamous new year resolutions. If you have yet to devise a resolution for 2017, why not look into charitable donations? It is always important to give back to the community and those who are less fortunate. With every new year comes a fresh start, so start the year off right by donating. And if you are looking into becoming more charitable, or are already a veteran in the art of giving back, it is always a great idea to make sure that the charities you are giving to and representing are legitimate and not scamming you out of your money. Here are a few ways to make sure that your donations are scam-proof.
First and foremost: Don’t trust anyone. While this may sound pessimistic and mean spirited, unfortunately in this world, there are many people who are looking to cash in on the kindness of others. So never assume that any charity is legitimate. If you ever receive an unsolicited phone call from someone claiming to work for a charity, and they thank you for your pledge to donate, do not trust it. They are more than likely trying to trick you into giving money.
Research, research, research: On the topic of legitimacy, one of the easiest ways to ensure that a charity is actually doing what they claim is to do some quick research. The advent of the Internet and Google has made fact checking incredibly easy. Make sure to look up the charity that you are giving to. There are a numerous tools at your disposal that can be used to verify a charity’s legitimacy. Two of the more popular sites are Charity Watch and Charity Navigator. Both sites include lists of respectable charities and even breakdown how your donations are being used.
Secure Your Personal Information: While charities do typically require some basic amount of information from you, there is a limit to what they need to know. For example, your name and contact information are reasonable requests that a charity would need to know, but more personal information, such as your social security number are off limits. There is no situation where a charity would need information such as that. Also, make sure to get information from them. Ask questions. Find out how they are using your money or when and how they will provide you with a statement so that you may deduct the donation from your tax return.
File it away: Record keeping when donating to charities is a crucial part to charitable contributions. When donating, it is typically good practice to use a credit card because it will automatically create a paper trail of the amount spent. If you can’t use a credit card, at least keep a physical note of it, whether digitally in your phone or written down on paper. Never assume that you can remember each and every donation. Also, if you make a contribution more than $250, you will typically need a letter from the charity in order to verify their organization’s tax-exempt status.
And scams are not only prevalent in the organized charity industry; there are hundreds of thousands of people begging for money on the streets who don’t really need it. Take for example, Simon Wright, a beggar on the streets of London. According to a report from the Daily Mail, Wright made a whopping £300 a day by pretending to be hungry and homeless, even going so far as to use a dog to get even more sympathy from passersby. Scams and scammers are everywhere, so be wary.
Donating and charitable contributions are an important aspect of human society. Although the holiday season is past us, that does not mean that we need to stop helping one another. Hopefully these handy tips will allow you to be generous and, most importantly, safe.