BBB ScamTracker has received over a dozen reports of a nonprofit organization in the past few months, using what consumers think are shady tactics to solicit donations. Potential donors beware! If an organization isn’t a charity, then contributions are not “donations” and cannot be deducted from your taxes.
How the Scam Works
You receive an unsolicited call from someone who claims to be representing a nonprofit organization. The “charity” has a name that includes a law enforcement word (“police,” “trooper,” etc.). There are lots of variations on this scam. The caller explains that the goal of this nonprofit is to help keep police officers, their families, or even police dogs safe. While there are legitimate charitable organizations assist law enforcement, there are others that simply want to take your money regardless of their sales pitch. Below are red flags to watch for that will help you to distinguish the good from the bad.
The organization’s goals may seem noble but do your research before making a pledge. A previous BBB investigation revealed many red flags about one of these groups, including the fact that contributions are not tax-deductible, and no information is available on the organization’s president, board members, and active chapters. According to tax records, only a small fraction of donations made to the organization actually support law enforcement officers. This is just one example of how fundraisers can look and sound like a charity, but in reality, are lining the pockets of opportunists.
If you begin asking specific questions about the organization or how your money will be used, you may find the caller has no answers for you. In other cases, you are told to call a different number where your questions will also be evaded. Callers often use intimidation tactics or try to make you feel guilty about not supporting their cause. Don’t fall for it! It’s all a way to get your credit card information and a donation.
How to Avoid Donation Scams
- Do research before you donate. If a nonprofit organization isn’t completely transparent, it’s impossible to know for sure that your money will support a good cause. Ask for documentation on how much of your contribution will be used for program services and how much will go for fundraising and management expenses.
- Don’t give in to intimidation tactics. If a caller makes you feel uncomfortable by making you feel guilty or telling you your donation is urgently needed right this minute, it’s best to simply hang up. Intimidation tactics are often used by scammers and are a red flag.
- Check the charity’s rating on Give.org. For a charity to receive BBB accreditation, it must meet 20 Standards of Accountability covering everything from governance to fundraising. If the organization does not appear on BBB’s website, that does not mean they are not a real charity, but it can be a warning that you need to do more investigation before you give.
- Give locally. Contact your local or state/provincial law enforcement agency and ask how you can support them. Most agencies have a non-profit “Friends of” type organization and will be happy to refer you to a more worthwhile option.
For More Information
Visit the BBB Wise Giving Alliance website, Give.org for more information on charitable giving.
If you’ve been the victim of a charity scam, help others avoid the same fate by reporting your experience at BBB.org/scamtracker.