Follow These Steps to Avoid a Charity Scam During COVID-19

Following a tweet last month by former President Barack Obama, in which he encouraged those of us with the means to lend their financial support to the people hit hardest by the pandemic and included a link to Charity Navigator, an organization that evaluates nonprofits, Charity Navigator reported a 500 percent increase in monetary donations to its Giving Basket.

That’s one shining example. There have been countless other instances over the last few weeks of this crisis bringing out the best in each of us. Unfortunately, the overwhelming need has also occasionally lured out the worst. The Federal Trade Commission has warned against COVID-19 charity scams.

How can you feel confident that your donation is going to a reputable charity that’s designated funds specifically to support communities affected by the outbreak? Follow these steps.

Ask for their EIN.

If you’re contacted by a representative from an apparent charity, ask for the organization’s EIN, or employer identification number, before the conversation goes any further. The EIN is a nine-digit tax number that the IRS assigns to nonprofits. With that number, the charity is a registered public 501(c)(3) organization, which means you’ll be able to look it up on charity evaluation sites like Charity Navigator and CharityWatch.

There is an exception. Brand-new organizations may not have filed their first Form 990 yet. In which case …

Google them.

The presence of a website alone isn’t necessarily proof that a charity is legitimate, so you’re going to have to dig a little deeper. First, what’s the site’s address? Most nonprofits have addresses that end in “.org,” rather than “.com.” Second, can you find the EIN? It should be listed either on the homepage or the donation page.

If you can’t find the EIN, read through some of the pages. A fake site is usually thrown together rather hastily, and the copy has either been plagiarized from other sites or it makes little to no sense under scrutiny. In other words, it’s there purely for appearances. If there’s any evidence of that, it’s a red flag.

Ask what your donation will be used for?

Even if the EIN checks out and the site’s informative, it’s a good idea to ask what your donation will be used for. Under normal circumstances, a charity would likely refer you to its mission statement. But, in this instance, you’ll want to make sure it has a plan for the COVID-19 crisis, if you’re passionate about making a difference on that front, and that your donation will be designated as such.

For the last 55 years, NORWESCAP has been helping to support low-income families and individuals across Northwest New Jersey. Today, as our region and country face the threat from COVID-19, that commitment is stronger than ever.
If you’re looking for opportunities to volunteer, donate materials, or otherwise support NORWESCAP’s work during this crisis, call MaryBeth Ringo at 848-459-5882 or email her at Monetary donations may be made here.