If you’re considering donating to help the victims of the Israel-Hamas war, it’s important to be vigilant and aware of potential charity scams that could divert your hard-earned money to scammers.

Criminals often fly under the radar to impersonate real charities, especially during times of conflict and war, social unrest, global health crises, or natural disaster. While you should continue to support charitable causes, it’s important to do so safely. Here are tips to help you avoid charity scams.

3 Tips to Help Avoid Charity Scams

1. Avoid Inbound Solicitations

There are many ways criminals can pass as legitimate charities. They may create a fictional organization from scratch or use a name similar to a real charity to lure in unsuspecting donors.

They may prompt you to take specific actions, such as clicking on links or downloading email attachments. They may also request personal information over the phone. These fraudulent actions could result in financial theft, identity theft, or even the installation of ransomware on your computer.

You can help avoid falling for these phishing scams by ignoring inbound requests, such as emails or phone calls, even if you believe it is coming from a legitimate organization. Don’t follow links, download attachments, or provide information through unsolicited phone calls. When you’re ready to donate, go directly to the charity’s website.

2. Research the Charity

Criminals may set up fake organizations as a response to current events, such as the Israel-Hamas war, to prey on sympathetic donors. By doing a few minutes of research online, you can verify if an organization is legitimate.

For donations to be tax-deductible, charities must register with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization. To make sure your donation is tax-deductible, you can check the IRS list of 501(c)(3) organizations.

For further research, you can check charity rating websites like Give.orgCharity Navigator or GiveWell. These sites provide information on thousands of legitimate charities, including data on how efficiently your donation is used to serve a cause.

You can also check your state’s local resources on charities. Look for complaints. If you see evidence of multiple complaints online or with your state, consider that a warning sign.

3. Make Donations Safely

Legitimate charities can accept donations through common payment types, including cash, check, credit card, PayPal and more. If the charity requires specific payment types like money order or gift cards you should consider this a red flag. If they want unusual payment types such as gift cards, that’s an even bigger warning sign.

Credit cards are one of the safer donation options. They have built-in legal protections as they provide a record trail of your donation. They also aren’t tied to your bank account. If you donate online, look for a padlock icon in your browser to indicate you’re on a secure website.

When you’re ready to donate, go directly to the charity’s website for donation instructions. Never provide personal information such as your Social Security number or bank account number when it isn’t needed to make a donation. Even your physical address can be used to run scams or commit identity theft, so be careful about where you share your information.

Charity Scam FAQs

What are the warning signs of charity scams?

  • Unsolicited requests for donations, especially via email, phone, or social media.
  • High-pressure tactics to get you to donate immediately.
  • Vague or misleading information about the charity’s mission and how funds will be used.
  • Requests for unusual payment methods, such as gift cards.
  • Lack of a clear and verifiable online presence, such as an official website or social media profiles.
  • Refusal to provide detailed information about the charity’s financials, tax-exempt status, or registration.

Are charity scams more common during specific events or disasters?

Yes, charity scams are often more common during specific events or disasters, like the Israel-Hamas war. Scammers often take advantage of people’s desire to help and the increased media coverage of such events.

What should I do if I suspect a charity scam?

  • Do not donate. Refrain from making donations until you can confirm the charity’s legitimacy.
  • Investigate the charity by searching online, looking for official websites, reviews, and information from trusted sources.
  • Report the suspicious activity to your local authorities, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or relevant consumer protection agencies.
  • Contact your financial institution. If you’ve donated and believe it’s a scam, contact your bank or credit card company to report the fraud and dispute the charges.
  • File a complaint. Consider filing a complaint with organizations such as the Better Business Bureau.
  • Educate others. Spread awareness about the suspected scam to help protect others from falling victim to it.

Bottom Line: Avoid Charity Scams

Amidst the Israel-Hamas war, it’s important to ensure your charitable contributions reach those in need and not the hands of scammers. Stay cautious, research charities, and make donations securely so you can help avoid charity scams and ensure your donations make a meaningful impact.

If your personal information becomes exposed due to a charity scam, try IdentityIQ identity theft protection services. IdentityIQ monitors your personal information across the internet and dark web and alerts you in real-time when suspicious activity is detected so you can stay in front of scammers.