Identity Theft and Charity Begin at Home

In times of natural disaster many people desire to help, to make a difference. How can you be generous and safe on line? Find out about an organization that can help you.


In times of crisis, citizens can become more generous than ever. Following the devastating terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, people made charitable donations in record numbers. Now our country is cleaning up and rebuilding after Hurricane Ike. As a resident of Houston, I know too well the destruction and the need and also the caring and generous giving of others. While helping and giving to victims of disaster is so important, it is also important that well-meaning contributors not become victims themselves of identity theft. There are many trustworthy, well-organized charities in need of your financial assistance and unfortunately there are many thieving, scamming individuals who want to take advantage of your good intentions and help themselves to your generous contributions.
Instead of becoming fearful of giving, it is important to educate yourself on safe giving to protect yourself from identity theft and to make sure your money goes to the people who really need it.
Lessons learned from Katrina
Most of us would agree that there were many lessons to be learned from Hurricane Katrina. One relates to on-line scams. Before Hurricane Katrina even hit the coast, criminals were setting up websites that included the keyword Katrina along with key words like help and relief in an effort to collect money and personal information. In the weeks following, the FBI reported that it had identified over 4,000 bogus websites that were attempting to take advantage of the goodwill of generous people.
Tips for Dealing with Charities On-line Safely
*Unless you’ve signed up to receive a newsletters from charities, be skeptical of e-mail solicitations. As a general rule, reputable charities do not solicit donations through e-mails. Many scammers create e-mails that look like they come from a charity name you recognize but links could take you to an unsafe site, unrelated to the reputable charity.
*If you are interested in a charity, start by checking out the actual web address. Most no-profit web addresses end with .org not .com.
*No reputable charity should ask for your social security number or date of birth on line.
*The same goes for solicitations by phone. Say no, or if you are interested, ask for information on the charity to be mailed to you and give no information beyond your mailing address.
*It is convenient, safe and economical for you and for charities for you to give on line to reputable charities at their safe sites.
How Can I Check Out Charities & Give On Line Safely?
CharityNavigator.org rates charities and gives you direct links to reputable charities. At CharityNavigator.org you research charities by name, rating (they have a zero to four star rating system) or by city or state.
CharityNavigator.com has many articles on smart giving that are helpful, especially in times of giving following a crisis. They remind us that new, even well-meaning charities are often not equipped to be most effective during times of crisis. They suggest at a minimum to require proof of a 501 C for any new charity and recommend giving to organizations with a strong track record for responding to disasters like the Red Cross that has a four star rating.
You want to help and there are so many people, including the victims of Hurricane Ike, that need your help. Just make sure that as you reach out to help victims, you aren’t reeled in by a scam that puts you at risk for identity theft.

 

One Response to “Identity Theft and Charity Begin at Home”

  1. Doug Woodall Says:

    These scammers are really getting good at fooling the casual user into giving up their money.
    Some even manage to get their ID.
    Great post, the info is greatly appreciated.