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Watch Out for Coronavirus Charity Scams

During the challenges brought on by the coronavirus, it is more important than ever to make sure any charitable donations you make are going to the right organizations.

Scammers are pouncing on the opportunity to take advantage of the pandemic and are reported to have already registered web addresses that include variations of COVID-19 or coronavirus in their name. Never give money through a link that someone emails you or provides via social media, no matter how much you may trust that person, since he or she could have been scammed too. Also be wary of email attachments that claim to be links to charitable organizations because they could contain malware that can infect your device. Here are some more tips on avoiding charity scams:

  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charity or crowdfunding sites.
  • Avoid organizations that use names that closely resemble better-known, reputable groups — for example, the bogus givetotheredcross.org rather than the authentic redcross.org.
  • Be wary of groups that won’t provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible.
  • Watch out for those who thank you for a pledge you don’t remember making.
  • Avoid those who pressure you to donate immediately without giving you time to think about it or do any research.
  • Do not give to anyone who asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire money.

Some charities, including local ones, may be reputable but simply not well known. To learn about them, check with organizations that vet charities. But remember, a charity recommended by one organization might fall short by another’s standards. So, check with at least two rating groups before you make a gift.

Here are four vetting sites that can help:

  1. CharityWatch.org is run by CharityWatch, the formerAmerican Institute of Philanthropy, and has a good record of discovering charity scams and weaknesses, providing grades for many charities.
  2. CharityNavigator.org uses a star rating system to vet numerous charities.
  3. Guidestar.org has a list of expert-recommended charities involved in relief efforts.
  4. Give.org is the Better Business Bureau’s charity-checking site, allowing users to verify which ones meet its accreditation standards.

If you encounter a charity you suspect is fraudulent, notify the Justice Department’s National Center for Disaster Fraud at disaster@leo.gov, which tracks and attempts to shut down scams. And thank you for supporting those charities that truly are working to make life easier for those who need our help.

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