With students heading back to school, sports teams and other groups are beginning their rounds of fundraising. You may see students, parents, teachers and coaches in front of grocery stores or other locations looking for the community’s generosity for their programs. At this time of year, this is a familiar activity that scammers are taking advantage of too.
Scammers have been reported to stand outside grocery stores or go door to door seeking donations. So how can you tell the difference between a legitimate school group and scammers?
The BBB offers the following tips when you are donating, whether to a school or other organization:
• Research the charity online or by directly calling the groups affiliated. Also, be cautious of charities that are named to cause confusion. Some scam artists will use a name that sounds very similar to a well-known charity to garner donations without the questions.
• Walk away or hang up on high-pressure solicitations.
• Cash donations are untraceable. Instead consider donating using a check, made out to the charitable organization and not to an individual. After you’ve vetted the charity, you may wish to use a credit card.
• When donating by text, be sure to verify the text code with the charity.
• Ask if your donation will be tax deductible. For this, a charity must be tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. You can check at the IRS by visiting www.irs.gov/Charities-&- Non-Profits/Search-for-Charities.
If you suspect that solicitors are actually scammers posing as those representing a charity, contact the police.
You can check out charities at the BBB by visiting www.bbb.org or calling (509) 455-4200. Other online websites to check out include Charity Navigator ( www.charitynavigator.org), CharityWatch ( www.charitywatch.org), and GuideStar ( www.guidestar.org).
Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor