DES MOINES — It’s the season of giving, but it’s also the season of scams. On this Giving Tuesday, Iowans who plan to make a donation to their favorite charity need to make doubly sure where they’re sending their cash, check or credit card information.
Ashlee Kieler, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Attorney General’s office, says one excellent place to confirm that a charity is legitimate is the Better Business Bureau’s “wise giving” website, give.org. “Give.org is great and there’s also the Charity Navigator, that’s another website that you can search for legit charities as well,” Kieler says. “You can do your own research, too. Google the name of the charity and then put words behind it like ‘review’ or ‘scam’ and see what other people are talking about.”
Making charitable contributions is a tradition for many Iowans during the holiday season, and she says there are scammers waiting to take advantage of that generosity. “It would be someone who maybe calls a consumer or an Iowan and says, ‘You’ve donated to us before and we’re looking for your support this year,’ but it doesn’t really click with you,” Kieler says. “So make sure you go back to your records and check and make sure that they’re not trying to pressure you into something. That’s another big sign that there’s a scam.”
Don’t let yourself be forced into making a quick decision, as a crook may claim a matching donation won’t apply if your donation isn’t made right away. Kieler encourages Iowans to continue giving, but also, to do their research first. “If there’s a charity that you’ve worked with in the past and have supported, go back and find that contact information and reach out to them,” Kieler says. “Over the phone is wonderful but also online, check their website and make sure that you’re not finding anything different.”
If you get an unsolicited call, don’t trust the Caller ID. “They’ll call you and maybe the Caller ID says the name of a charity that you’re familiar with, but we know that there’s technologies out there that criminals use to spoof phone numbers,” Kieler says. “If they call you, maybe talk to them and if you feel like that’s the charity you want to support, hang up and then find the number and call them yourself.”
If you believe you’ve been scammed or you suspect a charity is acting fraudulently, contact local law enforcement or the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. The Giving Tuesday organization reports 35-million adults contributed $2.7 billion during the movement last year.