4 Tips to Avoid Online Charity Scams

The rise of mobile and online banking has made charitable giving markedly easier. But with that convenience comes an all-new risk: online scams. Tech savvy as you may consider yourself, these schemes are becoming more sophisticated by the day—well-designed emails and websites bearing official-looking logos and familiar names.

They’re also becoming far more numerous. Consider how many emails slip past your spam filter and land in your inbox on a typical day. It means that any time you lift open your laptop or log into your tablet, you need to be on guard. Here are four tips to help with that.

Immediately delete unsolicited emails
Until recently, it was fairly harmless to open an email from an unknown source as long as you didn’t open its attachment. But, increasingly, scammers are using the names of legitimate charities and even lifting portions of their content. And they’re forgoing the attachments for links that lead to fraudulent donation sites or phishing sites that are designed to harvest your personal information. To be on the safe side, delete the email without opening it.

Be skeptical about opportunistic sites
Everything from the logo at the top of the homepage to the contact information at the bottom of it to the domain name may appear to be legitimate. But, if the site aggressively solicits donations, be leery. If you look closely enough, little giveaways will begin to emerge. You should be deterred well before then, however, by the more obvious, bolder language.

Investigate before you donate
If you have a cause in mind, Google it. That’ll provide you with a list of relevant charities. From there, visit a site like or the Better Business Bureau’s, which vets charities to help determine their legitimacy. Give’s accreditation process takes into account different factors. Those that pass receive a seal of approval. And Charity Navigator rates over 9,000 charities based on their financial health and level of accountability.

Either site should provide you with some assurance. With that, seek out the charity’s website and make your donation.

Approach crowdfunding with caution
Crowdfunding campaigns are more difficult to verify. For starters, try to find the name of the individual or organization that is responsible for collecting and managing the funds and then try to authenticate them. Don’t be shy about reaching out and asking for more information before you make your donation.

Links to these campaigns tend to find their way to us through friends. In which case, ask yourself a couple questions, including, is this person someone I trust? And, what’s their connection to the campaign?

As a rule, do not donate to someone who isn’t a friend or family member who contacts you directly for support. As you may have sensed already, the safest way to donate today is to seek out the organization yourself.