Tips to avoid fake holiday charities

Tips to avoid holiday sham charities
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 5:49 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Giving Tuesday kicks off a season of generosity, a season many charities rely upon to carry out their mission.

It’s also a season of opportunity for fraudulent scheme artists, and with so much money at stake, AARP West Virginia says those with a generous heart should be cautious.

“Scammers are really, really smart,” said Jane Marks, state president for AARP West Virginia. “They are extraordinarily prevalent right now. Older adults are most vulnerable to these kinds of scams and people lose millions of dollars every year by falling for these scams.”

The AARP estimates 75% of U.S. consumers have been the target of holiday fraud. Many of those schemes are related to fake charities.

That reality is not lost on legitimate charities -- few as well established as The Salvation Army. Still yet, its leaders take extra steps to make sure donors feel comfortable.

“Even at our bell ringing stations, that’s why our volunteers and our employees are clearly marked with bell ringing aprons and with the bell to make sure not just anybody has found a bell on the side of the road or bought one somewhere and stands in front of a kettle and then steals it somehow,” said Jayne May, area commander for The Salvation Army.

The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office has said consumers should never feel pressure to donate immediately. It also warns potential donors to be wary of sympathetic-sounding names, learn as much about the charity as possible, beware of groups seeking only cash or wire transfers and always give directly to the charity. That will ensure your gift lands in the spot.

“When in doubt, don’t,” Marks said. “If it sounds too good to be true, if something in your gut is just telling you that maybe this is not quite right, they you should just stop a moment. Again, a legitimate organization won’t be upset with you if you wait a bit.”

AARP also suggests making sure the charity is registered to receive donations. Potential sources include the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, the Internal Revenue Service and Charity Navigator.