Precaution helps reduce chance of charitable fraud

Donating money to charity is one of the most selfless things a person can do.

  • Oct. 9, 2011 11:00 a.m.

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.

Seniors should be especially mindful of fraud schemes because they are considered easy targets for criminals for a number of reasons, including having a nest egg and a solid credit rating.

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.

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.

Don’t feel pressured – No reputable charity pressures prospective donors into making contributions. That’s because they don’t need to. A 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. Seniors should not feel compelled to donate because they received free mailing labels.

Verify 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 website 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.