Protect Yourself From Online Charity Scams

by Justin Lavelle of

Unfortunately, this time of year is prime time for charity scams. Many of us will be making our end of the year charity donations and scammers know this. Before you think your money is going towards a noble cause, make sure it isn’t going into the hands of a real-life Grinch. As the Internet is such a popular place for giving, it’s also a feeding ground for scammers. Many set up fake charities to collect donations for themselves from compassionate people who want to help others.

Here are some ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim to a charity scam:

• Be careful who you give your email to: Scammers try to collect your information by getting you to give away your email address, perhaps unintentionally, online. If you do a survey on social media or sign a petition online, be aware as to what organization is behind it. There are numerous opportunities online to give your email address to a scammer – who can later solicit you with fake charity emails – without realizing it.

• Watch out for overseas requests: Any organization asking you to send money overseas is a scam.

• Do not open email attachments: Real emails from real charity organizations will not typically include attachments. Opening an attachment from an unsolicited email may lead to a computer virus. 

• Investigate the charity’s website: There’s a lot you can determine by doing your homework. A great place to scoop out is the website of the charity you intend to give to. Legitimate charities’ web addresses typically end in .org – not .com. You can also rule out any website that asks for your personal information – this would be an example of a scam.

• Be cautious of people claiming to be victims: If someone contacts you directly for help with something like a disaster or disease, they are likely trying to scam you. People in these situations “are in no position” to reach out to you as an individual.

• Do not donate immediately over the phone: Do your research.

Signs you may be dealing with a fraudulent charity:

• Refuse to tell you the details; its mission, identity, cost, or how your donation will be used.

• Ask for cash donations.

• Ask you to wire money.

• Thank you for a donation you didn’t make.

• Try to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to research.

• Use a similar name as an established charity.

• Refuse to give you proof that a donation is tax deductible.

• Offer to provide an overnight shipping service to collect a donation (another way they try to get you to pay immediately).

Don’t let cybercriminals be the Grinch of your online giving this year. By following these tips, you can spot the fake charities and make sure your donation goes to a credible organization.

Justin Lavelle is Communications Director at ( where he often offers ways to prevent becoming a victim of common scams. PeopleLooker is the fast, affordable, and easy way to access public records and search for people. Find out ages, marital status, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, criminal records, and more.