(WYTV) – Americans donated more than $400 billion to charities last year — but how can you know if the cause you’re giving to is real?
‘Tis the season for giving but not everyone is in the giving mood.
“They’ll call you up and say, ‘We’re raising money for Champion Fire’ and ‘Would you like to make a donation?'” said Champion Fire Chief John Hickey. “The issue with that is we don’t get that money.”
The Champion Fire Department is just one group dealing with scams this holiday season. According to Hickey, they’ve received several reports of people trying to solicit money for the fire department via phone calls.
“The one thing I can assure you — definitely here in Champion and every fire department in this area — nobody makes phone calls asking you to donate to their department,” Hickey said.
However, some departments said they do solicit donations this time of year.
So how do you know if the person on the other end of the call is for real?
“Reach out to your local police department and find out if they are soliciting for these donations or they have someone on their behalf soliciting for these donations,” said Melissa Ames, with the Better Business Bureau.
The BBB said scams happen all year long but they are more prevalent around the holidays.
“There are legitimate nonprofits out there that are soliciting for donations for their holiday parties, presents for kids, turkey dinners for kids but that brings along the scam artists because there is a sense of urgency,” Ames said.
To be safe rather than sorry, she recommends asking questions. Are they a 501(c)(3) or is your donation tax-deductible? How much of your donation actually makes it to the program or organization you’re donating to?
“If they can’t answer your questions or if they’re just trying to pull at your heartstrings, maybe this isn’t an organization you want to donate to because a legitimate nonprofit would be happy to answer your questions,” Ames said.
Another way to tell if it’s a scam or not is by how they’re asking you to donate.
“That is the hallmark red flag of these scam phone calls,” Ames said. “They want to use a prepaid debit card or a wire transfer service. The reason for that being those money transfers can’t be traced.”