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Watch Out for Scam Charities

We are fortunate to live in a generous and philanthropic country. Across the United States, billions of dollars are donated to charities. But, where there is money, there are scammers, including the nonprofit sector.

A common saying among nonprofits is people give to people. The safest way to be charitable is to give to nonprofits you know. You know the staff or board members or other volunteers. Another safe way is to rely on the recommendation of someone you trust.

Charity scammers are especially active during the holidays, the biggest giving season of the year. Many frauds involve fake fundraising for veterans and disaster relief such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or wildfires. A scam can use a fake nonprofit, or it can be one that is legally a 501(c)3 but does not spend their money on the mission they claim to support.

Federal Trade Commission

In March 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other law enforcement agencies shut down a massive tele-fund operation that bombarded 67 million consumers with 1.3 billion deceptive charitable fundraising calls. The defendants collected more than $110 million using deceptive solicitations. They claimed to support various charitable causes such as homeless veterans, breast cancer patients, and children with autism, among others.

AARP (formerly called the American Association of Retired Persons)

Money Do’s and Don’ts



  • Don’t give personal and financial information like your Social Security number, date of birth or bank account number to anyone soliciting a donation.

  • Don’t make a donation with cash, gift card or wire transfer. Credit cards and checks are safer.

  • Don't click on links in unsolicited email, Facebook, or Twitter fundraising messages; they can unleash malware. Don’t donate by text without confirming the number on the charity’s official website.

  • Don’t assume pleas for help on social media or on crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe are legitimate, especially in the wake of disasters. The FTC warns that fraudsters use real victims’ stories and pictures to con people.

Other Resources

If you want to support a charity you are not familiar with, the best resource is the IRS. Using this LINK, you can look up any nonprofit organization that has its 501(c)3 status and qualifies for tax-exempt donations.

Other websites to research nonprofits are GuideStar and Charity Navigator. Both offer limited free searches.

Nonprofits are an important part of our community. They provide services that the private and public sectors do not. Remember trust but verify when you are considering giving to a new nonprofit.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching, grant writing, and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in small to mid-size organizations because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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