As I warned you, the very day after the horrible shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, scammers and identity thieves will be preying upon both our best and worst instincts in response to the tragedy. People seeking videos and photographs of the event may find themselves clicking on links that purport to provide you with such material, but may only end up downloading keystroke logging malware that will steal all of the information from the computers of the curious people who will find themselves becoming victims of identity theft. Go back to Saturday, December 15ths “Scam of the Day” for more particulars. The next step in scams stemming from the murders will be the pleas for charitable contributions for the victims and others similarly situated. You should always be wary when anyone asks you for a charitable donation, but particularly when a charitable solicitation quickly follows an emotional event such as the killings in Connecticut. You will want to make sure that you are giving to legitimate charities that will use your contribution wisely rather than giving your money to a scammer or a “legitimate” charity that misuses your donations by paying its administrator inordinately large salaries. Particularly during this time of the year, you will likely find yourself being solicited by various police and firefighter charities. Many of these are scams and it is important to know the difference between a legitimate charity and a phony one.
Whenever you are contacted by a charity whether by text, phone, email or otherwise, you can never be sure that the person contacting you legitimately represents the charity or that the charity itself is legitimate. If you are charitably inclined, you should not respond directly to the person or entity soliciting you, but rather first, confirm that the charity itself is legitimate. At this time of year there are many charities that contact you, particularly those purporting to represent firefighters and local police that are scams. Many phony charities have similar names to legitimate charities, particularly those purporting to collect for local fire and police departments. You should always check out the legitimacy of the charity first before considering making a contribution. A good place to find out if a charity is legitimate or merely has a name that sounds legitimate is www.charitynavigator.org. This website also will provide you with information as to how much of the charity’s collected donations actually are applied to its charitable works and how much goes to administrative fees and salaries. As a general rule of thumb if a charity spends more than 25% of its donations on salaries and administrative costs, you may wish to contribute to another charity.