Giving Thanks: Avoid Charity Donation Scams

safety 101

By Rob Baquera, Public Information Officer Roseville Police Department

It’s November, a time for giving and sharing. Many of you may consider making a donation to a charitable organization. There are so many charities around that it can be difficult to choose which to sponsor. Before you open up your checkbook or pull out your credit card, you may want to do a little research. Some “charities” may actually be scams or may not be upfront about who is actually benefiting from your donations.

For example, you may have heard the Kars4Kids advertisement on the radio and may even have their jingle stuck in your head. But do you know how many kids benefit, exactly which kids will benefit, and how they are helped? Our research showed 90% of the monies donated go to a New Jersey based organization/charity, which operates Jewish youth summer camps in New York. We’re not suggesting this is a good or bad charity, just that it has a very specific population that benefits from a donation.

According to, some warning signs of a charity scammer include:
1. You’ve never heard of the charity before, or it is well-known but you suspect the website, email or letter may be fake. A fake website may look almost identical to a legitimate charity site, changing only the details of where to send donations.

2. The person collecting donations on behalf of the charity does not have any identification. Remember, even if they do have identification, it could be forged or meaningless.

3. You are put under pressure to act, in some cases you’re made to feel guilty or selfish if you don’t want to donate.

4. You are asked to provide a cash donation as they don’t accept checks. Or, they want the check to be made out to them rather than to the charity.

5. You are not given a receipt. Or, they give you a receipt that does not have the charity’s details on it.

Be very careful about donating to a charity based solely on their name. Some “pop-up” charities will appear, rake in a few thousand dollars from unsuspecting individuals, and disappear. Then there are the professional long term operations such as “Kids Wish Network,” “Children’s Wish Foundation International,” and “Children’s Cancer Fund of America.” According to the website, these charities are among the top 10 worst offenders and account for more than 1.35 billion dollars in donations, of which 970 million dollars went to the administration who collected the money not to victims.

It might be helpful to research a charity you’re interested in sponsoring by looking them up on an independent charity watchdog website such as Charity Watch. Charity Watch performs in-depth evaluations on complex charity financial reporting and gives each charity a letter grade efficiency rating ranging from A+ to F.

Many charities receive great benefit from generous donors; take a little extra time to ensure your dollars end up in the right hands.

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