Charities: To give, or not to give?

12/1/2017 | Written by: Selena R. Quintanilla

Over time, we’ve learned to look out for email phishing and phone scams leading to identity theft. Now with the recent natural disasters and the holiday season upon us, fake charities are on the rise. Below are some factors to take into consideration before making a donation. 
 

Unrecognizable charities 
 

If you are unfamiliar with a charity or foundation, it would be wise to do some research before signing away any personal information or funds. Ask questions, and if you are not happy with the answers, take some time to look into the entity yourself. 
 

Additionally, any credible organization will have received a letter from the IRS recognizing it as tax-exempt, and should be willing to offer it upon request. If they don't have the document in hand, their status can also be verified by calling the IRS (toll-free) at 1-877-829-5500. 
 

Requests for personal informationsuch as social security numbers, credit cards, bank account information or passwords. 
 

This type of information should only be requested when you are applying for loans, filling out applications, or filing your tax returns. If you receive a request for personally identifiable information or sensitive personal information, inquire into the reason behind the request and do not provide the information without being sure there is a valid business need.

Refusal to accept checks and insistence solely on cash donations. 
 

The primary objectives of a charity should be philanthropy and social well-being. Such organizations will be happy with a donation no matter the payment method. In addition, for tax purposes cash donations cannot be tracked, and if you donate in cash you will find yourself unable to write off the contribution due to lack of support documentation. 
 

Soliciting donations via email 
 

It's difficult in this day and age to separate valid emails from scams. You should not wire funds, send account information, or credit card numbers via email for any reason. 
 

This information should not deter you from giving back, but rather it is provided to remind you to remain vigilant when doing so. When tragedy strikes, scammers will often seize the opportunity for their own financial gain. By being mindful, you can ensure that you're helping those in need without putting yourself at risk.