Charity scams target seniors heavily during holidays
Donating money to charity is one of the most selfless things a person can do. Unfortunately, criminals can easily prey on these selfless acts, using a person's desire to help the less fortunate for their own personal gain.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, seniors should be especially mindful of fraud schemes. That's because seniors are considered easy targets for criminals for a number of reasons. The FBI notes that seniors are most likely to have a nest egg and an exceptional credit rating, making them very attractive to criminals. What's more, seniors are more likely to be ashamed if they feel they have been victimized and therefore are less prone to report the fraud.
But seniors should know that con artists don't discriminate when it comes to their victims, and people of all ages are victimized each and every year, particularly during the holiday season when men and women most commonly donate.
Before donating to charity this year, older donors should take the following precautions to reduce their risk of being victimized by con artists posing as charities.
*Get off the phone. Seniors are commonly victimized by con artists over the phone. No reputable charity will want you to donate over the telephone. Instead, the charity will want you to familiarize yourself with their mission and history and then make a donation based on your research. If a caller wants you to donate over the phone, simply request they mail you information about the charity and then hang up. If they're a reputable charity, this should not be a problem. If the caller continues to pressure you for a donation over the phone, just hang up.
A caller soliciting a donation might be a con artist, an employee of a for-profit fundraiser or an employee of the charity itself. Ultimately, if you decide to make a donation, don't do so over the phone. Instead, send that donation directly to the charity to ensure the charity receives the entire donation, instead of a portion going toward a fundraiser.
*Don't feel pressured. No reputable charity pressures prospective donors into making contributions. That's because they don't need to. A reputable charity can afford to keep its lights on and its programs running with or without your donation. If a caller or a letter is pressuring you to donate, don't succumb to that pressure and kindly decline to donate.
*Don't let "gifts" pressure you. Another tool employed by con artists or even less reputable charities is to send "gifts" to prospective donors. These can include mailing labels or cards. The hope is that recipients will feel pressured into donating once they receive a gift. However, a charity that is worth a donation does not need to resort to such tactics, which are a waste of resources as well as a dishonest way to solicit donations. Seniors should not feel compelled to donate because they received free mailing labels.
*Verify all information. Con artists are especially good at impersonating a reputable charity, sending e-mails with a well known charity's logo but a link that directs donors to a different web site entirely. Never make a donation without first verifying a charity's information, including how your donation will be used and how much of the charity's budget goes toward the services and programs it provides. Charity Navigator, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping givers make smart donating decisions, recommends donors give to charities that direct at least 75 percent of their budget on programs and services related to their mission. To avoid donating to a fraudulent or unworthy charity, research the charity and make sure your money will be going where you intend it to go.
*Save all records of donations. It's important to save records of any donations for tax purposes, but it's also important for seniors to keep records to avoid fraud. Many con artists prey on seniors by pretending to represent charities seniors have donated to in the past. By keeping records of all past donations, seniors can easily verify if they have donated to a specific charity in the past and whether or not the person on the phone or the author of an e-mail or letter is telling the truth.