Believe it or not, scamsters see a silver lining in the horror that took New York and Washington two weeks ago. As Americans open up their wallets to charity and pull out credit cards to donate, some scum artists are seizing the opportunity to gather information for fraudulent use. Be extra careful using credit cards for donations during this period. The Federal Trade Commission offered the following suggestions if your’re thinking about donating to the cause:
1. Donate to recognized charities you have given to before. Watch out for similar sounding names. Some phony charities use names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations.
2. Give directly to the charity, not solicitors for the charity. That’s because solicitors take a portion of the proceeds to cover their costs. That leaves less for the victims.
3. Do not give out personal or financial information – including your Social Security number or credit card and bank account numbers – to anyone who solicits a contribution from you. Scam artists use this information to commit fraud against you.
4. Check out charities. Contact the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance: 4200 Wilson Blvd, Suite 800, Arlington, VA 22203; 703/276-0100; www.give.org.
5. Don’t give cash. For security and tax record purposes, pay by check. Write the official name of the charity on your check. Or you can contribute safely online through www.libertyunites.org.
6. Ask for identification if you’re approached in person. Many states require paid fund-raisers to identify themselves as such and to name the charity for which they’re soliciting.
To report a fraud, contact the Federal Trade Commission toll-free: 877/FTC-HELP (877/382-4357) or use the complaint form at www.ftc.gov.