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How to avoid donation scams on Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday takes place every Tuesday after Thanksgiving, with the idea to counteract all of the spending on Black Friday and Cyber Monday by doing good and donating to charities or small local businesses.

However, even on a day with the best intentions, it is important to be careful and aware of where your money is going, as scammers have been known to take advantage of the day. In some cases, scammers have been known to create realistic-looking websites or emails that appear to be from well-known organisations, when in reality, the money is going into the scammer’s pocket instead.

Here’s what you can do to avoid getting scammed this Giving Tuesday.

To start, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) suggests that people looking to donate to charity utilise its Tax Exempt Organisation Search Tool, where they can look up the charity’s name to see if it is registered with the IRS and eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.

There are also other similar websites that reveal what exactly a charity does with its money and where its funds go, like Charity Navigator and Charity Watch.

Another common scammer method is to pressure people to give an immediate payment, which the IRS says to steer clear from. One sign that it may be a scam is if an organisation requests payment only in wire transfers or gift cards. If that happens, it might be a good idea to play it safe and avoid donating because those payment options are more difficult to reverse and aren’t as easy to trace compared to other money options.

Scams can also take place on crowdfunding sites. Crowdfunding is a way to raise money online via individuals, instead of through a larger organisation such as a charity’s website.

Because links to crowdfunding sites are often circulated on social media, it can become unclear as more and more people re-post the links where the money is intended to go to. According to the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, if you are going to donate money using a crowdfunding site, it’s important to figure out who the campaign organiser is. If a friend reposted the link, see if they can attest to whether or not the campaign is legit and where the money would be going.

If they don’t know, most of these sites list who the campaign organiser is, and how they can be contacted. If no details are available, it might be a good idea to skip donating altogether.

You can also do a reverse image search using Google to see if the images being used on the crowdfunding site are associated with any other organisations, or if they don’t match the campaign’s description. To be extra cautious, you can do a reverse image search of the campaign organiser’s picture, as scammers have been known to use stolen photos and copy and paste other people’s stories.

According to Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Chicago Better Business Bureau, who spoke to ABC, it’s also a red flag if a charity asks for your Social Security number or other personal information, such as driver’s license details.

You can find ways to safely participate in Giving Tuesday here.