TDCI: Give Smart, Know Who You’re Donating To

Monday, May 15, 2017 | 3:31pm

NASHVILLE – When tragedy or natural disaster strikes, people want to help in any way they can and often that means through monetary donations. Unfortunately, scammers can seize this opportunity to take advantage of your compassion. The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs wants Tennesseans to donate to legitimate charities and avoid falling prey to scammers looking to use a real-life tragedy to line their own pockets.

“Tennesseans have big hearts and are always ready to help in time of need, but that can make them easy targets for people who want to profit from others’ misfortunes,” said TDCI Consumer Protection Director Cynthia Wiel. “By staying informed of the latest scams and researching an organization before giving, you can help ensure your hard-earned money goes where you intended.”

The Division of Consumer Affairs offers the following helpful tips for consumers who are considering making a donation to a charity organization or relief fund:

  • You should never be rushed or feel pressured to make a donation. Always take your time to research the organization that’s contacting you or that you are looking to donate to:
  • Remember, even if you are registered on the National or State Do Not Call Registry, charities may still contact you.
  • If you didn’t initiate contact, avoid giving personal or financial information over the phone.
  • Avoid paying in cash or by wire transfer. These payment options give you little to no fraud protection.

Websites posing as charities can also pop up during these times and can sometimes look identical to the real organization. Many times these sites are not secure and you should never share personal or credit or debit card information.

Remember these tips before donating online:

  • Be cautious of look-alike websites. These fraudulent websites will often ask for personal or financial information over an unsecure connection or may download harmful malware into your computer. Look for a padlock symbol or “https” before the web address indicating that it is secure.
  • Don’t assume that charity recommendations on social media platforms or blogs have already been vetted. Research the charity yourself.
  • Find out what percentage of your donation will go to the charity and whether you will be charged any fees for making a donation through the fundraising platform website.
  • Be cautious when looking to give to charities that pop up soon after a tragedy or natural disaster.
  • If purchasing merchandise from a business claiming that the proceeds will go towards a charity or fund, look into the company and ensure they are a trustworthy business.
  • Not all crowdfunding campaigns are set up with good intentions. If you’re not sure where the funds will go when the campaign is over, look for an alternative way to donate.

If you have been contacted by or fallen victim to a charity scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission online at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ and to your bank or credit card company if applicable.

For more consumer tips visit www.tn.gov/consumer or contact the TDCI Division of Consumer Affairs at 800-342-8385.  

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