Each holiday season, people in North Carolina give generously in their communities through charitable donations. Unfortunately, my office sees an increase in charity scam complaints during the holidays. When you donate your money, you want to know that it will go to help others, not line some scammer’s pockets.
• Give to the charities and causes you support.
Telemarketers, who sometimes make commissions on the donations they raise, will call, email, or mail you solicitations for donations. They often use pressure sales tactics to get you to make a financial decision you could later regret. Instead of responding to these solicitations, choose who you want to support and then contact the organization directly.
• Watch out for social media and crowdfunding scams.
Crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe help people support local causes they care about. However, scammers can use them to trick people into giving to a sham cause. Before you give, take time to research the organizer. If you can’t find them online or if their details don’t match up with the post, don’t contribute. Only give to a crowdfunding campaign if you know the organizer or have verified their identity.
• Make sure the organization you want to donate to is legitimate.
If you are unsure, you can call my office or check its license with the Secretary of State. You can also research a charity’s ratings and history through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch or GuideStar.
• Never pay with a wire transfer, gift card or cryptocurrency.
Criminals will ask you to use these payment types because they make it difficult to get your money back. A credit card offers more protection against scams. Anyone who refuses to accept payment with a credit card or check is likely a scammer.
The holiday season is a time for each of us to spend time with loved ones and to give back to our community. When you donate, make sure your money supports the cause you care about, not a criminal enterprise. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a scam, file a complaint with my office’s Consumer Protection Division at ncdoj.gov/complaint or by phone at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
Josh Stein serves as attorney general for North Carolina.