Many Americans want to help during the COVID-19 pandemic by contributing to charities, but the FBI is warning that scammers also want to help—they want to help themselves to your money.
Nationwide, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have received reports of scammers fraudulently soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and areas affected by COVID-19. They are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both. Don’t let them.
Charity scams often occur when a scammer poses as a real charity or uses the name of a real charity to get money from you.
Be careful about giving money to any charity calling you for donations and be wary if you get a call about a donation pledge that you don’t remember making. Remember, you can’t always believe your caller ID. Scammers often spoof organizations’ phone numbers. It’s always best to research the organization telephone number yourself and call direct to verify. Do not be pressured or rushed to donate. That is a strong indicator of a scam.
Similarly, if you receive an email purporting to be from a charitable organization, do not click on links. These could be attempts to download viruses onto your computer or cell phone. Watch out for charity names which sound very similar to well-known charities, as well as email addresses that are not consistent with the charity soliciting donations. Instead, search for the charity using an internet search engine to ensure you’re connected to the actual charitable organization.
The best way to protect yourself is by doing your research. Here are some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of a charity fraud:
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether you’re donating through charities, social media, or crowdfunding websites.
- Look for online reviews of charity organizations or use information from your state’s regulator of charities or from websites like the Better Business Bureau, give.org, charitynavigator.org, or charitywatch.org to check on the legitimacy of charitable organizations.
- Before donating, ask how much of the donation will go toward the program or cause you want to support. Every organization has administrative costs, and it’s important to understand those structures.
- Never pay by gift card or wire transfer. Credit cards are safer.
- After making a donation, be sure to review your financial accounts to ensure additional funds are not deducted or charged.
- Always do your research before clicking on links purporting to provide information on the virus, purchasing COVID-related products online, or providing your personal information in order to receive money or other benefits.
The FBI has more tips at fbi.gov/charityfraud.
If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, report it to the FBI online at tips.fbi.gov and to FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.