Use Caution When Donating to Charities

Internal Revenue Service|Not-for-Profit|Tax

By Melanie Pantalone

It is a beautiful sight to see when the citizens of our nation come together to support victims or family members of victims during a time of devastation.  Thousands of individuals donate their personal funds to help the people who are truly in need.  With the horrible shootings in Orlando, FL on June 12, 2016, people all across our country wanted to help the victims and family members of the victims in any way that they could, mainly by donating cash funds.  A very sad truth to these wonderful acts of generosity is that there are scam artists who, during tragedies such as these, try to impersonate charities to scam not only money from individuals but also their personal information. 

On June 17, 2016, the IRS issued a consumer alert, warning citizens that these schemes may emerge with the recent shootings in Orlando.  The IRS stated that the scams may involve contact by telephone, social media, e-mail or in-person solicitations.  Below are tips the IRS released to mitigate a successful fraud scheme:

  • Phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations.  Be sure to donate to recognized charities.  The IRS website has a "Select Check" feature where all qualified charities are listed in a database.  A donor can perform a search for a charity to determine if it is legitimate and confirm that a donation to the charity would be tax-deductible.
  • When solicited for contributions, do not provide any personal information, such as your Social Security number, credit card and bank account number and password.
  • To record a proof of your donation, pay by check or credit card.  Never send cash as a form of payment.
  • Bogus websites solicit funds for recent tragedies by mimicking websites of legitimate charities or by claiming to be affiliated with legitimate charities.  Beware!
  • Through e-mails, scammers will send recipient's links to phony websites that appear to be legitimate.  Don't click a link from an unsolicited email.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen stated, "Fake charities set up by scam artists to steal your money or personal information are a recurring problem.  Taxpayers should take the time to research organizations before giving their hard-earned money."  The IRS Commissioner strongly recommends that taxpayers use the Select Check tool located on the IRS website.  The Select Check tool is extremely user-friendly and only takes a few minutes to validate a charitable organization.  Visit https://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/ to use the search feature of the IRS Select Check database.     

Taxpayers suspecting fraud by e-mail should visit IRS.gov and search for the keywords "Report Phishing."  

Contact us if you have questions regarding fraud and charitable donations and visit our Our Thoughts On blog for more articles pertaining to tax fraud techniques. 

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