Friday, March 7, 2008
Don't Be a Victim: Charity Scams
When tragedy and natural disasters hit, charities always seem to pop up to lend a helping hand, but how can you be sure your money is reaching the right hands? Dave Kartunen has the tips to make sure your money goes to those who are in need.
WSVN -- Tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, people in need and people here are always willing to help, but when people are ready and willing to give, scam artists are there to take.
Officer Frank Jackson: "They tug at your heart, they are going to play with your emotions."
In Central Florida, a man tricked people into thinking they were giving money for homes that were never built. Victims thought he was part of Habitat For Humanity.
Sharon Shoemaker, Habitat For Humanity: "I'm concerned about people of very low income that are giving their money to someone that is not building them a home."
Officer Frank Jackson of Coral Gables Police says, Don't Be A Victim, know the tricks of these scammers, so you can make sure your money is going to those who need it.
First, he says pay close attention to how they ask for money.
Officer Frank Jackson: "If it's a legitimate charitable organization, it shouldn't feel like a sales pitch or like you are in a car dealership."
If you feel pressured to give, that should be your first clue that something is wrong.
Second, it's all in the name.
Officer Frank Jackson: "They are going to go with name recognition, Cancer Society, National, American, International. They are going to use the same sort of terminology."
Scammers change the name of the real charity very slightly, they want to confuse you into thinking they work with the real organization.
Another red flag is the form of payment.
Officer Frank Jackson: "Paypal is very easy to set up an account, same thing as a P.O. Box that's anonymous. I would be very leery."
Officer Jackson says a real charity will have a street address and a phone number. Also, look for legitimate email accounts.
Officer Frank Jackson: "If they have an account like Hotmail or Gmail, which is free. If its a reputable charitable organization they will have .com or .org"
Dave Kartunen: "The most important rule, when it comes to charity scams, is disclosure of where their funds are going. Reputable charities will be very open in giving you that information. Most have pre-printed fliers, or the info is on the charity's website."
Officer Frank Jackson: "Know how much of the dollar you are donating goes to towards operational costs, administrative fees, and how much goes to what you are actually donating."
And, the last tip, if a charity asks for personal information over the phone, hang up.
Officer Frank Jackson: "Do not agree to any amount of money over the phone, give them any checking account numbers, credit card numbers"
Being generous shouldn't lead to becoming a victim. Officer Jackson says be aware, ask questions, and do your research before donating to make sure your money really goes to those that need it most.
Dave Kartunen: "The better business bureau should be able to provide you with information on charities as well as web sites such as http://www.charity.org/."