Charity or scam: Signs to look for before you donate

There are signs to look for that can tell you whether a website is being run by a legitimate charity, or if it could be a scam (WHAM photo)

In times of crisis, Americans often reach out to help. But not all charities are what they appear to be.

“Anytime there is any kind of national tragedy, or there is something that tugs at your heartstrings, like what we’ve seen going on in Thailand, what we’ve seen going on at the border, people want to give. People want to help,” said Melanie McGovern of the Better Business Bureau.

But those cries also bring opportunities for scam artists.

“They rely on that emotional appeal,” said McGovern. “’Oh, you need to help. Donate here, click here.’”

McGovern says bogus charity sites can pop up within hours of an event and quickly end up in your social media feed.

“See what day the page was established – if it was two days ago, if it was three years ago,” suggested McGovern. “Check out the website that is attached to it. Every Facebook page has to have a website attached to it.”

Even if a website looks legitimate, McGovern says to take a closer look. Scam artists will go to great lengths to fool you.

“They tale a URL that looks similar to a nationally-recognized, accredited charity,” she said. “You’ve got to be careful, look for those telltale signs that it’s not a secure website.”

Those signs include spelling errors or pixelated photos. When in doubt, call the BBB. They can tell you if your money will truly go to a good cause.

“People want to help, and we love that people want to help,” said McGovern. “We just want to make sure they are helping the right charities.”

Before you make any donations, do your research. Check out the Better Business Bureau’s site, “Give.org” for reports on local and national charities.

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