Well, here we are, right in the middle between Thanksgiving Shopping Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the remainder of the Holiday season, a period when most of us slackers will actually do our gift shopping, and hope we get it done before the morning of the 25th.
And, although many of us may be slow on the shopping, one thing most of us will share is a feeling of good will, and a desire to reach out and help those that are disadvantaged. Obviously, since we at Identity Theft Resource Center work for a charity, we think holiday giving is a good thing, and a pursuit that we all should remember throughout the year. The United States is home for thousands of 501(c)3 registered charity organization like the ITRC, and they provide a tremendous amount of productive services for those would otherwise go without such help. At ITRC we know that our average victim or consumer is likely to be from the Low-Moderate-Income status (79%), a group that usually cannot afford paid services, much less attorneys. Many good charities are similar in this respect, a much needed outreach to underserved communities.
However, especially at this time of year, the scammers are also aware of the public feeling of wanting to do some good for those in need. As a result, this is also a time of uptick in holiday charity scams, attempting to take advantage of the fact that December is by far the strongest month for giving. It is also a banner month for identity theft and scams. So it is important that you as a donor do some homework on the intended charity, to ensure that your donation really does the intended good. You can check to see if the charity tells you it is a registered 501(c)3 entity with the IRS and state of residence. If so, their IRS 990 tax return should be available to the public, and they should be registered with the Secretary of State for their state of corporation. It is also easy to check with www.GuideStar.org or the Better Business Bureau to see if the organization is listed, and at what level of listing. If the organization shows a GuideStar logo on their website, or is BBB accredited, you can quickly determine that the organization has a high level of transparency about their operations, and have shown those organizations that they use your money wisely and appropriately. You should do your homework before giving to any charity organization, but it doesn’t take very long to get a feel for what the organization is about. If they don’t show their operations publicly, then you should wonder why, regardless of what you think you know about them. Good charities have good public transparency.
Donations should always be made to the organization, rather than any individual. Again, good organizations have methods in place to make this easy for the donor, and give organizational receipts, and required tax deduction information. If you are going to donate online, make sure that the website is one that belongs to the organization, which is another piece of information that can be found in a GuideStar or BBB report. In no case should you let yourself be pressured to “give now” without doing the homework. That is precisely what the scammers want you to do. Use credit cards (not debit cards) or bank check for donations, as both are more secure and have methods of recourse. Watch out for phone scammers. If you are approached by phone, tell them you will call the organization back if you are interested, as you have no easy way to verify the identity of a caller. Do not provide personal information that might be used to start an “identity theft profile” on you.
These suggestions are common sense, and asking you to think before you react. If the charity concerned is a good one, it will take very little time to confirm their status, and ensure your donation is “Doing For the Public Good.”
The team at Identity Theft Resource Center wishes you a wonderful holiday, and a bright new year.
If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center's Anyone3 fundraising campaign. For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3.