Our country is made up of some extraordinary people. As a nation, we are very compassionate and donate millions each month to worthy causes. This is a good thing. But, as you can expect, the bad guys are out there watching for every opportunity to make a buck. So we all need to be careful, as the following scenario shows.
Scenario: How Having A Good Heart, Can Turn Into A Bad Thing—If You’re Not Careful
One morning, Mary turned on the television and saw the devastating news about an earthquake in Haiti. The report showed heart-breaking pictures of the devastation and misery the disaster caused. Thousands were without food, shelter, and medicine, not to mention the hundreds that were killed.
Katie wanted to help and donate to the relief efforts. So she searched the internet for “Haiti Earthquake Donation.” She quickly found a Haiti relief crowdfunding page. So, Katie immediately whipped out her credit card. She intended to donate $1,000 to help the victims of this latest tragedy.
The site looked very professional and asked her to provide her credit card information, address, and other personal details. Charitable donations are often deductible, so Katie didn’t think it strange when the site asked her for her social security number for tax purposes. Katie willingly complied.
Afterward, Katie closed her laptop and felt a sense of pride that she had done something to help.
A week later, Katie went online to do some banking and discovered that her main account only had a $100 balance. “How could this be?” she thought; her balance should be over $25,000. In addition, she noticed a wire transfer—that she did not make—the prior week. Katie had been scammed! But, unfortunately, they could do nothing when Katie called the bank since the money was already sent overseas.
Immediately after calling the bank, Katie checked her credit card statement. She saw huge charges on her card, maxing out her credit line.
Katie suddenly realized what was going on. It all started when she made that donation last week—the site was a scam! She suddenly had a sinking feeling in her stomach when she realized that she had also given her social security number to the thieves. As the old saying goes, “three strikes and you’re out.”
Did You Spot The Red Flags?
- Katie donated to a site she found on the internet before she checked if they were legitimate.
- She gave out way too much information, even her social security number!
- Katie did not have bank or credit card alerts enabled on her accounts. If she did, she would have immediately known about the wire transfer and credit card activity.
Charity scams are prevalent, especially after natural disasters that make the headlines. Be cautious with charity and crowdfunding sites. Do your research before entering any information or clicking links within the website. While many reputable charities exist, there are others that scammers created with the sole purpose of stealing information and funds from generous givers.
Also, be aware of unsolicited phone calls. Scammers commonly pose as reputable charities trying to collect your donation over the phone. They typically use pressure tactics to get you to act immediately. If you get such a call, hang up, it’s a scam.
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