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How to Check the Validity of a Charity and Recognize Scams

written by: Aaron R.•edited by: Brian Nelson•updated: 2/3/2010

It is important to be able to recognize illegitimate charities and their advertisements. This article explains how.

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    Check the Legitimacy of a Charity

    Legitimate charities do not solicit or advertise for donations through email. Remember that charity begins at home. There are local needy charities in your neighborhood that you can easily verify their existence by simply visiting. Charities are usually non-profit organizations. You can check their validity with the state organization that issues business licenses. You can also check to see if a charity is valid in addition to how much is allocated for the cause and maintenance of the charity, and whether or not any complaints have been filed with the:

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    Warning Signs of Possible Charity Scams

    Some illegitimate charities use names similar to legitimate charities, so be sure you know the exact name, a physical address (not a P.O. Box) and a phone number from the email or one that you've gotten from a phone call. If this information is not provided, the validity can’t be adequately confirmed. Treat these emails as you do any other spam by forwarding them to the appropriate law enforcement agency and then deleting them or simply hanging up the phone. And, of course, remember not to click on a link in the e-mail.

    • Legitimate charities don’t solicit donations through spam emails. If you do not have an existing relationship with a charity, treat the email as spam.
    • Be very cautious of a charity soliciting donations through email for current tragic events or trying to gain your sympathy.
    • Remember not to surrender your personal, credit or banking information to a solicitation from an email or unless you made the call to the charity yourself.
    • When you have determined that the charity is legitimate and you do want to donate, use a check instead of cash. Be sure to make your check payable to the charity not the person collecting or soliciting your donation. Also get a receipt showing the donation amount and whether it is tax deductible or not.

    Appropriate law enforcement agencies you can use for reporting include the Federal Trade Commission in the USA and the RCMP in Canada. For more information about scams, read this guide to spotting internet scams.