Has this ever happened to you?
The phone rings. You don’t recognize the number. But you answer anyway, thinking you’d rather not miss an important call.
“Well, hello there. My name is John Doe. I’m calling from Save Everything Charity. We collect donations to help put an end to various world issues.”
“Um, what kind of world issues? Can you be more specific?”
“Oh, you know,” John Doe stumbles. “Feeding the hungry, saving the earth. That sort of thing.”
In this scenario, John Doe of Save Everything Charity is nothing more than a scam artist — and not a very good one at that. But you’re onto his ploy, so you tell him you’re not interested before hanging up. Good for you. You’ve just stopped another charity scammer from getting away with a very serious crime. If only it were always that easy to see through charity scams like John Doe’s absurd Save Everything.
But we know it isn’t always that easy. Some charity scammers are really good at pretending to care.
Blinded in Brooklyn
For example, one charity scam in Brooklyn, NY blinded everyone to their crimes until recently.
For years, the fake National Children’s Leukemia Foundation ran a multi-million dollar scam before authorities finally shut them down in December 2015. According to the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the fake charity got away with:
- Convincing donors to give a total of $9.7 million.
- Lying about having medical experts who could provide services to terminally ill children.
- Running a bone marrow registry and cancer research center. Neither existed.
- Preparing and submitting incomplete and falsified financial reports.
- Pretending to have a functioning board of directors made up of people who had no connection to the organization.
- Granting wishes to terminally ill children through its “Make A Dream” program, which “did little more in several years than donate one laptop computer to one child and send another child to Disney World.”
Our Asurea Scam Report wants to protect you from such shameful acts, like those carried out by the likes of John Doe’s Save Everything Charity to the National Children’s Leukemia Foundation.
Here are a few tips on how to tell if a charity is the real deal or the fraud squad.
Real deal or fraud squad
To help keep honest consumers safe from charity fraud, the Federal Trade Commission put together this list of tips:
- Ask who wants your money. Like in the scenario above, go ahead and ask for more information, especially when someone is asking for your money. Ask what percentage of your donation will go to: 1. The children/elders/whales/fill in the blank, 2. The fundraisers and 3. Operational costs. If you don’t like their answers, then keep it moving. Other legitimate charities are more deserving of your time and money.
- Call the charity. Do some reverse research. Search for the charity’s official website and call any numbers you find. Find out if the charity knows about the solicitation. If they’re unsure or confused, then you may have just cracked a scam case.
- Ask for basic information. Any real charity will have a traceable address, a website, phone numbers that someone answers or that leads to a professional menu system, and branded email addresses that match the charity’s website domain name. That means, if the charity’s web address is www.realcharityname.org, then their email address really should appear as email@example.com — not as firstname.lastname@example.org. Sure, plenty of fraudulent charities have legit-looking websites and emails. But it’s a clear red flag if they don’t!
- Call the regulators of charitable organizations in your state. The National Association of State Charity Officials has contact information for regulators in each state listed on its website. Your state office can also tell you what portion of your donation will go to the charity and what portion goes to fundraising and operational costs.
Clear warning signs
At Asurea, we know there are clear warning signs that a charity is a scam or one that you’re better off avoiding. Click around for more tips like these on how to avoid being scammed or what to do if you’ve already fallen victim.
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This information is provided for general consumer educational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax or investment advice.