12 Scams of Christmas: How to research legitimate charities

Posted at 8:07 AM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 11:07:28-05

(KERO) — It’s the season of giving and scammers want to take advantage of your generosity.

Consumers most often fall for scams after receiving a phone call seeking donations for certain causes. And while many charities are seeking help during the holidays, there are also impostors hoping you’ll give to them instead.

The man had a business card and a story, but Mary Quilici said something seemed off.

She told the Better Business Bureau he was going door-to-door collecting money for boxes to send to disabled veterans suffering from PTSD.

"People used in this case an old campaign, found the flyers, found the information went door to door and you look at it and you’re like this is legitimate, I’m familiar with this nonprofit, this organization and they just pocketed all the money that was given to them."
Angie Barnett, president and CEO, for the Better Business Bureau serving greater Maryland.

Mary found the real campaign online and it ended in 2018.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers have reported losing $1.6 billion to charity fraud so far this year with the median amount lost is $1,000.

"A bad guy will take a cause du jour and build something around donating to firemen, or police, or first amendment rights or something along those lines and just robocall or try to get as many people as they can on the line," said Keith Custer, supervisory special agent. for the FBI in Baltimore.

They’ll say there’s an urgent need and rush consumers into giving over the phone.

Even if it’s a name you know, you’re better off donating online or in-person.

Charities sometimes use paid fundraisers that keep a portion as a fee.

"When you are giving to anything, please do the research to make sure you’re not being misled, misdirected, you can find legitimate information," said Barnett.

Websites like Charity Navigator, Guidestar, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance are great resources. They do the research for you, evaluating the amount spent on salaries, fundraising efforts, and how much is actually going to program expenses.

And there’s an enhanced tax incentive to give this year. If you take the standard deduction you usually can’t claim deductions for charitable contributions, however this year, you’ll be able to claim a limited deduction for up to $300 dollars for individuals and $600 for married couples.