Fraud Watch: Be careful with holiday donations

Posted at 8:55 AM, Nov 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-02 16:53:16-04

HELENA – These last few months of the year might have some feeling generous. A 2012 Guidestar survey found more than 50 percent of organizations surveyed said they received a majority of their contributions between October and December. But fraud experts are warning this is the time scammers are also paying attention.

“They’re basically trying to exploit your desire to give philanthropically,” Gabrielle Crofford, investigator with Montana’s Office of Consumer Protection, said.

Crofford said every year around the holidays, there’s an uptick in scam calls.

For the first time, charity regulators across the country declared an international charity fraud awareness week in October to help charities and consumers avoid fraud.

The scam usually starts with a phone call, an email or a text message out of the blue. You may notice a sense of urgency from the person on the other line. He or she won’t want to hang up without getting something from you. Crofford said this is the time to ask some questions about who’s on the other end of the phone.

“You want to make sure you know for sure what organization they’re calling from and ask lots of questions like what’s your mission, what’s your website, where can I find you online so that you can do your research. You don’t want to get pressured into making a donation over the phone,” Crofford said.

Websites like the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator and Guidestar are charity watchdogs and will help you pick the good guys from the bad.

If a so-called charity asks you to wire them your donation or send it on a gift card, OCP said those are big red flags.

“Legitimate charities never want you to give that way,” Crofford said.

Check and credit cards are recommended because credit card charges can be disputed later on.

If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, contact Montana’s Office of Consumer Protection.