Across the globe there are thousands of charities doing incredible work to help people, animals and the environment. In our wonderfully connected world, it’s easier than ever to support the charity of your choice with online donations. According to the National Philanthropic Trust, Americans donated over $4.7 billion recently, and over half of those donations were done online. Over the years the manner in which donations are made has changed, too. In the last five years, Double the Donation has tracked that desktop donating has reduced, while mobile and tablet activity has accelerated dramatically.
With such generosity proliferating across the internet, unfortunately, come groups of bad actors who see this as an opportunity to monopolize on people’s kindness for their own gains. The FBI regularly releases public service announcements warning citizens of known or suspected scammers masquerading as charities. Particularly in instances of natural and international disasters, such as COVID-19, scammers take advantage of the panic, confusion and good nature of those eager to do something to help.
Spotting fake charity campaigns can be tricky, especially for imminent crisis appeals. Communications sent by charities themselves are often rushed, meaning some of the usual telltale signs of spurious messages or advertisements aren’t always going to be enough to spot a con, keep your donations safe and get them to the right place. There are still some useful tips and tricks to keep in mind when you want to donate online, though.
Like with so many imposter scams — where a bad actor pretends to be an organization of any kind — always refrain from clicking any links in messages themselves. Especially in the case of charity scams, they could lead to a doppelganger website that looks like the real deal. Instead, do some Googling. Actively look up the charity, look for reviews and anything that shows it has an established history and reputation. Then, when you’re confident it’s a genuine appeal, go to their website directly and find the donation page yourself. Never trust the link.
These are some useful resources for helping check the credibility of a charity:
There are more ways for you to pay your donation to a charity now, some of which may be unfamiliar if your online activity tends to stick to basic shopping. Social media, crowdfunding and dedicated fundraising platforms are great ways for charities to receive donations through multiple channels, but they can be a little confusing for the uninitiated. If you come across one of these and don’t feel sure about its authenticity, stop. Go through channels you’re more comfortable with, or contact the charity to enquire about if the page or link you’ve found is genuine. Best case scenario; they tell you it’s fine and you can go ahead. Worst case; you’ve flagged a potential scam to them and it can be investigated. Either way it’s a win-win.
When you come to complete a transaction online — and this goes for anything, not just charity donations — look for verification marks on the payment page. Watch out for the usual security process that you’ve come to expect when using your card to pay online, whether that includes additional layers of security or an authentication prompt from your bank. If you don’t see these things, proceed with caution.
If you suspect that you have fallen victim to a scam and donated to a fake charity, don’t waste any time in contacting your bank to report it. While they may not be able to salvage your donation, they can investigate the account and flag it for any future transactions, potentially saving many others from being swindled in the same way.
Total Defense can help you boost your online security practices. For more tips, visit our blog.