For many people, the holiday season is a time to give back. It’s also the time of year when scammers ramp up their efforts to take advantage of your goodwill to steal your hard-earned money.
Virginia Tech cybercrime expert Katalin Parti explains that charity scammers typically impersonate other successful charities. “They may call you using a local phone number,” says Parti. “That tactic can give you a false sense of security.”
Once they get you on the line, it’s time for the scammer to make their pitch. “It will be a good one. It will tug at your heart-strings,” says Parti. “But listen closely because they will never actually specify how they will help. They may even claim that you’ve donated before and ask you to do it again.”
Parti recommends keeping the following in mind when giving this holiday season:
Do your research. Use the IRS tax-exempt organization search tool or a watchdog like Charity Watch to get more information and learn if the charity is credible. Google also works.
Pay close attention to the charity name and website. False charities like to mimic other popular charities. If it seems too close in name to another, it might not be real.
Keep track of your donations. Even if you accidentally donate to a scammer, you need to ensure that the donation isn’t recurring.
Don’t give away all your personal information. Of course, it’s normal to provide your card information, but don’t do the same with your Social Security number or bank account number.
Don’t make a cash donation. Unless you’re certain about a charity’s credibility, don’t give away cash, gift cards, or cryptocurrency.
Margaret Ashburn for Virginia Tech