If you want to step up your charitable contributions, now is the perfect time to do it. Unfortunately, you'll also need to be extra careful since scammers are taking advantage of the holiday season to trick people.
Melanie McGovern says the Better Business Bureau sees a surge in charitable scams this time of year as scammers use the confusion and generosity of the holiday giving season to disguise their fraud.
"We see so many different appeals, either on social media, television, in our lives, for people asking for money, especially during the holidays."
According to the FBI, Americans lose millions every year to charity scams. To protect yourself from a trick, start by doing some research. "You want to make sure that you're donating to a reputable charity," McGovern said.
Next, don't let anyone pressure you to make a decision fast. "Reputable charities will take your money tomorrow just as much as they'll take it today," said McGovern.
Step three, if someone reaches out to you through the phone, email, or social media, you should always contact the organization they say they represent directly before donating. McGovern suggests giving the charity a call and asking if the person who contacted you is actually part of the charity's fundraising efforts.
If you see a link asking for money on social media, you need to be extra careful. "Charities get spoofed all the time," McGovern said. She urges everyone to look closely at the website, noticing things like typos or other irregularities that are likely red flags.
Finally, if you have a lot of questions but can't find answers, that's a warning sign. Reputable organizations will make it clear where your money is going. "Take a look at the platform," McGovern said. "Do they have fraud protection in place? Is there a way to get your money back if something should happen?"
If the answer to those questions isn't satisfactory, that's a good reason to donate somewhere else.