It's the season to give. Donation jar with money

Celebrate the Season of Giving Safely: How to Verify Legitimate Charitable Organization

With the arrival of the holiday season also comes the season of giving, and with the season of giving comes the search for charitable organizations to donate to. Donating to charity is a wonderful way to pay it forward this season, but it is important to make sure that your donations are going where you want them to. In recent years, there has been a rise in scams involving fake charitable organizations, taking money that is meant for a good cause. In order to help you make sure your donations are going where you think and avoid scams, here is a guide to verifying that a charitable organization is legitimate—


Pay Attention to the Details

The devil is in the details when it comes to deciding if a charitable organization is real. Whether you are looking to donate online, in person, or over the phone, be attentive to the details. Are they asking for cash only, gift cards, or wire transfers? Do they need your social security number? Are they being particularly pushy or urgent about your donation? Are they being vague about where your donations will go? These are all examples of red flags to look out for when donating.


Check out the Charity’s Website

When deciding if a charitable organization is legitimate, the website is a great place to check. If you are donating online, pay close attention to the quality of the website. If the site has misspellings, strange formatting, a URL without ‘https://’, or asks for unnecessary personal information, it might be fraudulent. Another thing to look out for is if you get to the checkout page and the URL changes entirely, often to something unfamiliar. This could be a sign that your payment information is being recorded and sent to a scammer.


Avoid Phone Call Donations

Donating over the phone may seem convenient, but unfortunately, it is one of the most common forms of donation scams. Scammers may call claiming to be a charitable organization, whether it be a well-known or non-existent one, asking for donations. The caller will often be vague about the details of the charity, and be extremely urgent about your donation. They may ask for a wire transfer or a gift card to be bought for the donation, which a legitimate charity would never do. If you do get a call from someone claiming to be a part of a well-known charity, ask questions about the charity’s details, such as address, exact name, and how much of your donation will actually go towards the cause. Sometimes the caller will be calling for an actual charity, but they may be affiliated with a third party, meaning that only a tiny portion of your donation will go to the actual charity. It is best to avoid this kind of donation.





Search for the Charity in Databases

One of the best ways to verify that a charitable organization is legitimate is to search for it in an online charity database. These databases, such as Charity Navigator, use data supplied by the IRS regarding tax-exempt charitable organizations, so you can be sure that if a charity is listed in a database or on the IRS Tax-Exempt Organization Search, it is most likely legitimate. This is a great, quick way to verify a charitable organization before donating.


Donating to charitable organizations this season can make a world of difference for those who benefit from them. When donating this season, we want to help you make sure that your money is going to the causes you support. Scams can take many forms, and those involving fake charitable organizations can be especially difficult to spot. Take the time to vet each organization you donate to, and rest assured that your donations are going somewhere they matter. For more information about the different types of scams and how to avoid them, watch this workshop given by Sergeant Melissa Doss of the St. Peters Police Department. Stay safe, and have a wonderful season of giving!  Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender