Scam of the day – November 29, 2016 – Giving Tuesday scams

Following the major shopping days referred to as Black Friday and Cyber Monday now comes Giving Tuesday which was first designated as a special day to focus on helping out people in need through charitable gifts in 2012.  This is a time of the year when many people are receptive to solicitations from charities.  Unfortunately, not all of those solicitations will be from legitimate charities.  Many of those calls, letters and emails will be from scammers posing as charities.

Even if you are on the federal Do-Not-Call List, which I strongly recommend unless you want to talk to telemarketers, the law permits charities to contact you by phone.  Unfortunately, whenever you receive a telephone call, you can never be sure who is really calling you.  Even if your Caller ID indicates that the call you are getting is coming from a charity whose name you recognize, the call actually may be from a scammer using a technique called Spoofing to make it appear that the call is legitimate when it is not.  The truth is that the call you receive may or may not be from a legitimate charity or a telemarketer on behalf of a legitimate charity and you have no way of knowing who is really on the other end of the line.

TIPS

When you receive such a call from a telemarketer or someone purporting to represent a charity, if you are interested in the particular charity, the best thing you can do is just to ask them to send you written material.  Do not provide your credit card number over the phone to anyone who calls you because you cannot be sure that they are legitimate.   Also, as I have warned you in the past, many phony charities have names that are similar to real charities so it is always a good idea to investigate a charity before you make a charitable contribution.  In addition, when you receive a charitable solicitation telephone call from a telemarketer, the telemarketer is generally being paid a commission for the money he or she collects.  Thus, your contribution to the charity is diluted by the amount that goes to the telemarketer although as Jerry Seinfeld would say, “not that there is anything wrong with that.”    However, if you really want to make your charitable contribution go farther, you will  be  better served by first checking out the particular charity at www.charitynavigator.org where you can find out not only if the particular charity is legitimate, but also how much of your contribution goes toward administrative costs and how much actually goes toward the charity’s charitable work.  Charitynavigator.org will also show you the best address to send your contribution.  Then you can make your contribution directly to the charity without any amount being deducted for fund raising expenses.

Scam of the day – October 10, 2016 – Hurricane Matthew charity scams

While Hurricane Matthew has caused serious damage on the South Coast of the United States, the utter devastation caused by this storm in Haiti, where hundreds of people died as a result of the storm, has been so much worse.   This kind of natural disaster brings out the best in us as many people are quick to make donations to charities to help the survivors of the storms and the families of the victims.  This kind of natural disaster also brings out the worst in scammers  who are quick to take advantage of the generosity of people by contacting them posing as charities, but instead of collecting funds to help the victims of the storms, these scam artists steal the money for themselves under false pretenses.   Charities are not subject to the federal Do Not Call List so even if you are enrolled in the Do Not Call List, legitimate charities are able to contact you.  The problem is that whenever you are contacted on the phone, you can never be sure as to who is really calling you so you may be contacted either by a phony charity or a scammer posing as a legitimate charity.  Similarly, when you are solicited for a charitable contribution by email, you cannot be sure as to whether the person contacting you is legitimate or not.

TIPS

Never provide credit card information over the phone to anyone whom you have not called or in response to an email.  Before you give to any charity, you may wish to check out the charity with www.charitynavigator.org where you can learn whether or not the charity itself is a scam.  You can also see how much of the money that the charity collects actually goes toward its charitable purposes and how much it uses for fund raising and administrative costs.  Here is a link to charitynavigator.org with a list of a number of highly rated charities helping in the Haitian relief.           http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=4386

Scam of the day – August 3, 2016 – Police charity scams

The recent fatal shootings of five Dallas police officers has brought out the compassion and best charitable instincts of people around the country.  Unfortunately, it has also brought out scammers who have set up phony charities seeking to take advantage of people wanting to help the families of the fallen officers.  Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is warning people about these scams which come through text messages, emails, websites and telephone calls.  In every instance, whenever you are contacted directly by someone soliciting for a particular charity, you not only do not know whether the charity is a scam, you also don’t know how much of your contribution to a “legitimate” charity goes to the charitable work of the charity and how much goes to the salaries of the charity’s management.

TIPS

In regard to people wanting to help the families of the five Dallas police officers killed recently, the Dallas Police Department is suggesting that people make their contributions to the Assist the Officer Foundation http://atodallas.org/?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term= the Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation http://www.dallasfof.org/?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term= or the Dallas Foundation https://lineofdutyfund.kimbia.com/lineofduty

In general, before you give to any charity, it is a good idea to check out the charity with www.charitynavigator.org where you can find out whether or not the charity is a scam as well as how much of what it collects actually goes toward its charitable work and how much goes to pay for salaries and fund raising.

Scam of the day – June 16, 2016 – SEC closed down phony charity

Following legal action brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), phony charities American Handicapped, Inc and American Handicapped and Disadvantaged Workers, Inc. have been shut down.  According to the FTC, these companies called consumers in an attempt to sell trash bags and cleaning products at hugely inflated prices while seeking charitable donations in return for a free gift.  The telemarketers would tell their victims that these charities employed disabled people and that most of the money raised would be used to pay the salaries of these disabled people which was a lie.  The two companies sent unordered merchandise including light bulbs and trash bags along with inflated bills for the shipped items to their victims.  The truth is that the companies only paid a fraction of what it collected to its few disabled employees and the free gift that customers received came with an inflated bill.

TIPS

Even if you are on the Do Not Call list, legitimate charities may call you soliciting donations, however, whenever you are called by any purported charity or business, you have no way of knowing when they call you whether or not they are legitimate.  Therefore you should never buy items or make a donation to a charity in response to a telemarketing call until you have investigated the charity independently through websites such as charitynavigator.org to determine whether or not the charity is legitimate.  In addition, if a business or a charity sends you any merchandise that you did not order, the law permits you to keep the merchandise as a gift without having to pay for it.

Scam of the day – April 2, 2016 – FTC and States’ Attorneys General settle claims against phony charities

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) along with the Attorneys General for all fifty states just settled fraud claims against two bogus charities, the Cancer Fund of America and the Cancer Support Services as well as the man behind these phony charities, James Reynolds Sr..  According to Jessica Rich of the FTC, “The FTC and our state enforcement partners have ended a pernicious charity fraud that siphoned hundreds of millions of hundreds of millions of dollars away from well-meaning consumers, legitimate charities and people with cancer who needed the services the defendants falsely promised.”    According to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, Reynolds and members of his family also involved in the phony charities used the funds collected primarily to fund “luxurious lifestyles and for their own personal gain.”

The settlement, which has been incorporated into a court judgment requires the charities to be liquidated and the funds received, after reimbursing the costs of the investigation and legal costs incurred by the FTC and the states, will be donated to legitimate cancer charities.  Also pursuant to the settlement, Reynolds is banned from any involvement with charity affairs.  However, no criminal charges were brought against him.  Here is a link to the settlement as incorporated into the court’s judgment.  https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/cases/160330cfaorder_reynolds.pdf

TIPS

There are many lessons for all of us as individuals interested in making charitable donations.  The first lesson is that merely because a charity’s name sounds legitimate does not make it so.  Second, when you are considering making a donation to a charity, it is important to investigate the charity to find out whether it is an outright scam or whether it is one where very little of the money donated goes toward the announced charitable purposes of the charity.  You can find the answers to both of those questions by going to www.charitynavigator.org, which, by the way rated these charities extremely low.

Scam of the day – October 11, 2015 – South Carolina flood scams

Many people have been touched by the photographs and videos showing the plight of the victims of the recent flooding in South Carolina and are responding by making donations to charities helping the flood victims.  Unfortunately, such natural disasters also bring out scammers seeking to put the touch on charitably inclined people by setting up phony charities to take advantage of the situation.

Scammers are setting up phony charities or using the names of legitimate charities to steal charitable donations that should be going to help those in need.  In addition, there are some “legitimate” charities that spend an inordinate amount of what they collect in donations on their own salaries and administrative costs rather than use the funds to meet the needs of the people the particular charity is supposed to be helping.

TIPS

Be very wary of telemarketers seeking charitable contributions.   Whenever you receive a telephone call that purports to be from a charity, you can never be sure that the caller is legitimate.  In addition, even if the caller is a legitimate solicitor on behalf of a charity, they work on commission and some of what you donate will be going to the telemarketer.  If a telemarketer arouses your interest in a particular charity, ask the telemarketer to send you written information that you can review before making a contribution directly to the charity that you know will go entirely to the charity.

As for email and text message solicitations from charities, be particularly careful because not only can you not be sure if they are legitimate or not, they may be even worse than that.  The email or text message may contain a link or attachment that has malware that can steal the information from your computer or smartphone and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.

Many phony charities have names that are deceptively similar to those of legitimate charities so it is always a good idea to investigate a particular charity before you make a donation.  Charitynavigator.org is a great resource.  It is a free website at which you can look up any charity to which you may be considering making a donation.  Not only will Charitynavigator.org tell you whether or not the charity is a scam or not, it also will tell you how much of the money given to the charity goes toward its charitable works and how much it pays in salary and administrative costs.

Scam of the day – July 30, 2015 – Lafayette shooting charity scams

It is a sad statement on life today that Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is warning people about scams related to charities springing up in regard to the recent shootings at the Grand Theatre in Lafayette, Louisiana.  Scammers constantly turn up with phony charities whenever there is such a tragic event such as the recent shootings.  Phony charities were ready to steal the money of charitably inclined people following Hurricane Katrina and the shootings at the Sandy Hook elementary school and they are ready to steal money from people who want to help the victims of the Grand Theatre shootings and their families.

TIPS

To make sure that your charitable donations are going to where they can do the most good, make sure that any charity you wish to donate to is legitimate.  You can do this by going to www.charitynavigator.org and learn not just if the charity is a scam, but also how much of the donations to the particular charity is spent on salaries and administrative expenses rather than going to the charitable purposes of the charity.  If you are contacted by phone, email or text message from a charity, you can never be sure that the person contacting you is legitimate even if he or she uses the name of a legitimate charity.  In that case, if you are charitably inclined, your best course of action is to contact the charity directly by phone or at an email address that you know is accurate to make your donation.

Scam of the day – May 1, 2014 – Disaster relief scams

Six states in the Southeast suffered serious storm damage from tornadoes and floods earlier this week.  Mississippi and Arkansas were particularly hard hit, but the devastation was widespread throughout much of the Southeastern United States.  This kind of natural disaster brings out the best in us as many people are quick to make donations to charities to help the survivors of the storms and the families of the victims.  This kind of natural disaster also brings out the worst in scammers  who are quick to take advantage of the generosity of people by contacting them posing as charities, but instead of collecting funds to help the victims of the storms, these scam artists steal the money for themselves under false pretenses.   Charities are not subject to the federal Do Not Call List so even if you are enrolled in the Do Not Call List, legitimate charities are able to contact you.  The problem is that whenever you are contacted on the phone, you can never be sure as to who is really calling you so you may be contacted either by a phony charity or a scammer posing as a legitimate charity.  Similarly, when you are solicited for a charitable contribution by email, you cannot be sure as to whether the person contacting you is legitimate or not.

TIPS

Never provide credit card information over the phone to anyone whom you have not called or in response to an email.  Before you give to any charity, you may wish to check out the charity with www.charitynavigator.org where you can learn whether or not the charity itself is a scam.  You can also see how much of the money that the charity collects actually goes toward its charitable purposes and how much it uses for fund raising and administrative costs.  If you do wish to make a donation to a charity, go to the real charity’s website or call them at a telephone number that you know is accurate in order to make your donation.  If you wish to donate to the American Red Cross, you can do so through your smartphone by texting the word “redcross” to 90999.  You may also donate directly on their website at www.redcross.org.