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Giving Tuesday: How to avoid scams when making donations

·2 min read

With the annual splurge of food and shopping of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday behind us, you might now be looking for opportunities to help others.

Giving Tuesday, which takes place on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, launched in 2012 to urge people to find ways to give their time and money to charitable causes.

A recent report on Giving Tuesday found people donated nearly $2.5 billion in the U.S. last year.

Shopping and donating do have one thing in common: They're ripe targets for scammers.

Just as you might get emails, texts, or phone calls trying to trick you into believing a great deal awaits, similar tactics are used to convince you to donate to a worthy cause, especially during the holiday season.

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"This is the peak of malicious traffic tied specifically to consumers," said Mark Ostrowski, head of engineering with security firm Checkpoint Research.

Giving Tuesday is a great way to give back after the Thanksgiving holiday. Here, some volunteers from a pre-pandemic world.
Giving Tuesday is a great way to give back after the Thanksgiving holiday. Here, some volunteers from a pre-pandemic world.

Fortunately, most of the tactics used to avoid shopping scams help with scams related to giving. Here's how to protect yourself:

Be wary of how they ask you to donate

Ostrowski says most organizations won't ask to you send them cash directly, or gift cards, and they certainly won't ask you to wire them money. If you receive any messages seeking donations in this form, avoid them.

Don't be rushed in your decision

According to the Better Business Bureau, don't rush into donating, especially if it's toward an organization or cause you don't know well. "Responsible organizations will welcome your gift tomorrow as much as they do today," said the BBB.

Do your research

Most organizations will have their own websites with important information such as their mission and the specific results achieved through donations. Be sure to check carefully before giving.

You can go beyond just the organization's website, too. The Better Business Bureau allows consumers to search organizations to determine their validity. BBB also suggests visiting the National Association of State Charity Officials because many states require charities to register before they ask for donations.

Consumers can also search the Internal Revenue Service for tax exempt organizations to learn more about whether they are legitimate.

Ostrowski says searching BBB and the IRS is helpful for consumers who want to avoid getting scammed.

"If you have a specific organization you want to donate to, and you’re not sure if it’s legit or not, those are two really good areas of resource you can look into,” he said.

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Giving Tuesday scams: Tips on avoiding them when making donations