(VitalNews.org) – The IRS, amongst other official bodies, has warned Americans not to be caught out by scammers taking advantage of their charitable efforts during the holiday season.
Danny Werfel, IRS Commissioner, warned that con artists are quick to capitalize on the national and international disasters that inspire ordinary Americans to donate money by targeting potential victims with fake requests for aid. By purporting to represent a well-intentioned charity, scammers can not only trick people out of their money and divert it from those in need, but they can also steal valuable personal data, putting the victim at risk of further fraud or identity theft.
U.S. Attorney Dena King echoed this warning and added that whether someone wishes to donate to a charitable cause or simply wishes to purchase a gift online, they must be vigilant for potential scams. Thieves managed to trick Americans out of $281 million in 2022 alone through a range of internet-based schemes, including the operation of fake charities and “lookalike” online stores.
King’s office also warned against fake “missed delivery” messages that direct the consumer to a website designed to gain their personal and financial data, as well as other forms of “phishing” texts and emails. “Phishing” messages come in a range of styles, from those claiming to be from a bank and requesting the receiver to enter passwords, to those promising a free gift or a prize won in a competition.
As well as being cautious when receiving unsolicited messages or when donating or spending money online, Werfel said that consumers should take their time when making any financial decision and should research any charity thoroughly before making a donation. Jamie Truman, who co-founded Truman Charities, said that it can be difficult for people to carry out thorough research. Each year, her organization carries out their own research and selects several charities they believe to be highly trustworthy.
Truman explained that part of the process includes using a third-party organization that offers information about charities and how they conduct themselves. She uses “Charity Navigator”, although there are many to choose from. The Federal Trade Commission recommends the websites: “Candid” and “CharityWatch” for the same purpose.
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