Avoiding Charity Scams: A Brief Guide

Most humans want to do good for a plethora of reasons. Some are for altruistic reasons while some are for more cynical reasons. But whatever their reasons may be, this automatically makes them potential victims of ‘Charity scams’.

Charity scams are schemes devised to deprive unsuspecting people of their funds by preying on their benevolence. This can take many forms but mostly through scammers pretending to be legitimate charities. In such instances, they pretend to solicit funds for victims of a recent disaster, veterans from the military, orphanages, or people with serious medical conditions.

Charity scammers use every available means to approach their victims, they can approach in person, via e-mail, telephone, SMS, and social messaging applications. They use logos and images of real charities and victims or create fakes using image editing applications like Photoshop. Unfortunately, most charity scams go unreported because the victims committed sums they consider expendable. This sustained precedence seems to encourage its occurrence.

How to Recognize a Charity Scam

Here are some ways to determine if that call, e-mail, SMS, social media post/message or pitch is legit.

  • Fake Charities are not registered: A reputable charity organization should be registered with the government. To know if a charity is registered, you can look them up from the CAC name search portalthe portal gives details about an organization’s registration date, branch address, and contact information.
  • They use pressure and urgency: Reputable and legitimate Charities do not pressure people into donating no matter how urgent a situation may be. In contrast, scammers treat ‘donations’ as a matter of urgency, pressuring you into making donations. They employ emotional blackmail, aggressively pushing victims’ stories with the aim of manipulating the donors.
  • They accept donations through channels that aid anonymity: Given the unprecedented proliferation of payment technologies, scammers now employ alternative channels of payment, especially those that protect the identity of the receivers. These may include Cryptocurrencies, Gift Cards, and Wire Transfers that are untraceable, so you should watch out for this. Legitimate charity organizations will always accept a variety of payments method including traditional methods that provide an audit trail.
  • They spam you with messages: Fake charities spam people with messages or links for donation. Legitimate charities do not do this, instead they usually have a webpage with clear information on how to donate and where.

Steps for protection

  • Verify their “good works”: Don’t be swayed by responses such as “we take care of the needy” or “we support widows and orphans,” without actions these are empty words. Seek out concrete proof that the are actually involved in the work they claim with verifiable results. For instance, If they claim to take care of orphans, find out where their orphanage is, how long they’ve been involved in the work and the difference it has made in the lives of the children.
  • Do some checks on their website: Scammers can clone a charity organization’s website and content. They then slightly alter the domain name (For example, www.nogofallmaga.org can be misspelled as www.nogofalmaga.org). How can you be vigilant and not fall for this? You can do so by using these online tools to check if a website is a clone and if the content of the website is used elsewhere; CopyScapeSiteLinerPlagSpotter. You can also make use of reverse image search to check if images on the website are being used on other sites.
  • Verify Crowdsourced or social media appeals: Before you give out money for a gofundme or social media appeal for assistance, make sure you can verify the situation is true or that you personally know the person soliciting for funds. If you can’t then you should consider not giving no matter how tragic the situation may be.
  • Approach the charity yourself: Always approach the charity organizations you are willing to make a donation or offer support. Do not rely only on a phone number, contact or website address given by the person who first called, visited or emailed you because they could be impersonating a legitimate charity.  

In conclusion, always do your due diligence, and do not let the antics of charity scammers dampen your drive for giving, for there is great value in helping others.

Contributors:

  • Chibuike Gabriel Offor
  • Awoyomi Muyiwa Anthony
  • Emmanuel Beyoma
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