9/11 Charity Scams: Tips for Wise Giving

September 10, 2013

Tomorrow marks the 12th anniversary of September 11th. Back in 2001, the IRS fast-tracked the approval of over 300 new charities related to 9/11 and together they have raised more the $2 billion and counting. Those that still operate rely on donations from the public to raise funds for 9/11 related causes ranging from scholarships for the children of victims, to memorial sites.

Unfortunately, with the creation of honorable charities came a plethora of scam artists looking to prey on the public’s emotions and make a quick buck. Even worse, many of those phony charities are still around today. While they may seem legitimate, (many asking for donations for firefighters, wives and children of victims, or additions to the 9/11 memorial) there are definite red flags of a charity scam that consumers should look for before opening their checkbooks and wallets.

If you want to donate to a 9/11 related organization this year, the San Diego BBB has tips to make sure your money gets where you intend it to go. Read below for tips on giving before you hand over any financial means:

Ask why the charity is collecting donations for 9/11. Doing so will alert you of their ongoing purpose.

Research the charity by looking up their website and any other online buzz surrounding the organization. Never click on links through an unsolicited email.

Request printed materials when receiving soliciting phone calls. If you receive a brochure or other collateral, fact check the organizations address, phone number and website before sending anything back in the mail.

Never give credit card or bank information over the phone or wire money to a charity. These are the two largest red flags of a charity scam.

Be cautious of bogus names that mimic legitimate organizations. Scammers often set up fake charities with names that sound similar to a recognizable organization.

If you are contacted by an organization or charity and solicited for a donation, keep an eye out for these warning signs of a scam:

They refuse provide detailed information (i.e. they cannot identify the organization and its mission, how the funds will be used, or provide proof the donation is tax deductible.) Real charities have all this information on hand and will gladly give it to you.

You are thanked for a donation you don’t remember making. This is a tactic to try to make you feel comfortable to give “again.” Keep track of your donations with receipts and never feel uncomfortable or obligated to give to a charity.

Sense of urgency. Many scam artists try to get you to donate quickly without giving you a chance to ask questions or verify their legitimacy. Always take your time, do your research, read the fine print and only donate if you feel comfortable.

Still feeling skeptical? Visit bbb.org or call 858-496-2331 with any questions or concerns about a charity. Supporting a cause you believe in is important, but the San Diego BBB wants you to verify the charity before donating your hard-earned money.