How it works:
Americans give more money to charity than any other country in the world. It is sad but not surprising that criminals both here and abroad will try to take advantage of our generous spirit. Charity scams are popular around the winter holiday season and whenever there is a national or international tragedy. This scam involves the collection of monies under the pretense of charitable giving. They are particularly harmful because in defrauding the giver, they also deprive the intended recipient(s). The scam can be simple or sophisticated, ranging from a coin jar on the counter of a local coffee shop to a professionally engineered website circulating via social media.
The practice of online giving is becoming increasingly common for charitable organizations. However, the convenience of online giving comes with the risk that your hard-earned money may not make it to those in need. Hundreds of fictitious charity websites were setup within hours of both the Sandy Hook school shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing. Many of these websites originated overseas, but had every appearance of a legitimate charity, including a convincing (URL) web address.
It is important to thoroughly vet any person or organization soliciting funds. In Connecticut, any person soliciting funds for an existing charity (e.g. American Red Cross) must have the charity’s written permission to use its name. Any charity established in Connecticut must be registered with the State, even if the organization only solicits donations online. When giving online, do not simply follow a purported link via email or social media. Personally seek out the charity’s established online presence. Most legitimate charities will have websites ending in “.org” and maintain social media pages with a high volume of “likes” or “followers”.
What to do:
Do not make cash donations or write a check payable to a person. Never give money via bank draft or money transfer services. Instead, give using a credit/debit card or write a check directly to the charity.
Do not provide personal identifying information like your date of birth or social security number when making a contribution.
Do not open e-mail attachments or follow web links (e.g. purported images of disaster areas) as they may contain computer viruses.
Do verify that any Connecticut based charity is properly registered with the State prior to donating. This may be done online at https://www.elicense.ct.gov/ or by calling 1-800-842-2649.
Do vet charitable organizations using sites like www.charitynavigator.org or the IRS’s Exempt Select Check database http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Exempt-Organizations-Select-Check
Do contact the Darien Police Department if you become suspicious of a charity soliciting donations in Darien.
Do contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) to report fraud
connected with relief efforts at 1-866-720-5721 or by emailing email@example.com.
Do report suspicious e-mail solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.