Giving Back: How to give safely during the pandemic

Donations are the lifeblood of many charitable organizations. Unfortunately, donations also can be the lifeblood of criminal operations designed to scam would-be donors.

The potential for charity scams could be even greater in 2020. Charities accept donations year-round, but the spirit of giving that prevails during the holiday season makes the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas especially popular times to donate to charity. In addition to being on the lookout for the usual scams, the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia warns prospective donors to beware of potential scams involving the COVID-19 virus.

Recognizing the challenges people in their communities have faced as a result of the economic fallout of the pandemic, donors may be more inclined to donate to charities purporting to help laid off workers, small businesses or others adversely affected by the outbreak. That’s admirable, but prospective donors must recognize that their eagerness to support COVID-related charities may make them vulnerable to criminals looking to exploit their charitable nature. In recognition of that, the OAGDC offers these tips to men and women who are considering donating to charity in 2020.

· Be wary of recently launched operations. Operations that were formed in response to the pandemic may be viable, but the OAGDC also warns that many have been formed by scammers looking to exploit the outbreak for their own gain. Be especially wary of crowdfunding campaigns.

· Ask questions. The OAGDC says that any charity, even those formed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, should be able to provide you with the same information as charities that have been around for years. Prior to donating, ask for the charity’s name, address, telephone number, and mission. In addition, don’t feel skittish about asking how your donation will be used and the percentage of each donation that goes to programs that directly help the people you’re trying to assist.

· Be vigilant before donating via peer-to-peer social networking websites. It’s especially difficult to verify how donations made via texts or websites are ultimately used. While these can be convenient ways to donate, the OAGDC urges donors to be especially vigilant about vetting before donating to charities through these channels.

· Never donate using cash, gift cards or wire transfers. Reputable charities do not ask for donations to be made in this way. The OAGDC advises donors to use credit cards whenever possible.

· The terms “COVID-19” or “coronavirus” do not authenticate a charity. A reputable name or logo does not mean the charity is actually reputable. Prior to donating, donors can confirm a charity is legitimate by contacting organizations such as Charity Navigator, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance or the National Center for Charitable Statistics.

Scammers will no doubt try to exploit the pandemic to take advantage of donors during the upcoming giving season. Savvy donors can employ various strategies to ensure their charitable donations end up in the right hands.

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