'Tis the Season for Scams
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) While the holiday season is a time for generosity, it also is a time of opportunity for those willing to prey on others' Christmas spirit.
Recent research shows most people make the majority of their donations during the holiday season when giving is at the front of everybody's mind, as well as knowing it's the last month to get tax deductions for the year. Yet, some non-profit organizations warn those full of merry cheer to watch out.
"We urge donors to give thoughtfully, and to be wary of scams this holiday season," said Art Taylor, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance. "It's important to check out a charity first, and make sure you are giving to a charity that will use your donation wisely."
Sandra Miniutti, vice president and CFO of Charity Navigator a nonprofit which analyzes charities said there are no solid stats that reveal how many people get taken by scams during the holiday season, but people definitely give more in December and need to be careful this time of year.
A recent 2013 Charity Navigator survey showed most charities receive around 40% of their annual contributions in the last few weeks of the year, with donors giving more than $100 billion to different groups during the holiday season. This year should be no different, according to the survey, with 91% of donors surveyed saying they plan to give during the year-end giving season, topping even the 90% who said they donated at this time last year.
Because of those numbers, Miniutti's organization offers several tips for donors at this time of year, including avoiding crowdfunding since those sites do little-to-no vetting independently and are considered a very risky way to donate.
The Better Business Bureau also has come up with the BBB Scam Stopper site, with the help of Western Union, to help consumers reduce their chances of becoming a victim of a scam. One tip is to never to send a money transfer to an individual you have not met in person.
"Money transfer is a great way to send money quickly and conveniently to friends and loved ones," said Shelley Bernhardt, director of consumer protection at Western Union. "However, it is not intended for use when doing business with someone you have not met face-to-face.
"Resist rushing," Bernhardt adds. "If a charity is legitimate, they'll accept your donation any time."
The Better Business Bureau also recommends donating to a charity directly after confirming its legitimacy rather than giving in response to a phone call or by clicking an email link, and never send a money transfer to an individual for a charity. The bureau reminds Western Union does accept donations for charities, but the money transfer must be sent to the organization, not to an individual.