Hot Topics     Home and Family    

Charity scam prevention tips



How you can tell the difference

Charity scam prevention tips


The charitable spirit of New Yorkers is at an all-time high during the holiday season, so this week’s tips are meant to serve as a guide when choosing causes to donate to so donations get to the right place and not in the hands of scammers. 

“The season of giving is in full swing, and people are purchasing gifts for loved ones and making generous donations to causes they care about,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “But before making these donations, it is important to remember that scammers like to prey on the good intentions of people, and we encourage New Yorkers to do their research before making donations so that these good deeds reach the right place.”

Charity scams can happen at any time, but they are more prevalent during the holiday season when donors are moved by both generosity and the end-of-year deadline for securing tax deductions. Charity scams also increase after a natural disaster or emergencies, collecting millions of dollars from unsuspecting donors. On many occasions, these fraudsters pretend to be affiliated with well-known organizations or even the government to scam people out of their hard-earned money. According to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2022, there were 10,217 reports of charitable solicitation fraud resulting in $21 million in losses. This is a drastic increase from 2019’s 3,872 reports of charitable solicitation fraud resulting in $6 million in losses. 

Tips to Help Avoid Charity Scams:

  • Check the legitimacy of the charitable organization. Charities located or engaging in substantial fundraising in New York State should be listed on the New York State Attorney General's database of registered charities. Research before you donate by visiting The Office of the New York State Attorney General's Charities, Nonprofits & Fundraisers page to verify registration, and by checking websites such as www.bbb.org, www.give.org and www.guidestar.org in addition to visiting the charity’s website. If donating toward relief efforts, visit a site such as disasterphilanthropy.org to ensure your donation is really going where it needs to.

  • Learn to detect a phony charity. Some scammers will create fake “charities” and try to trick you with names similar to well-known charities. Pay attention to the charity’s full name, web address, contact information, donation policies, etc. Scammers may copy or mimic the name of a familiar, trusted organization to swindle you.

  • Designate your donation. Ask how your donation will be allocated between direct services and administrative fees. Unless you designate a specific purpose for your donation, it will go into the organization’s general fund, so make sure to note if you are sending money for a specific purpose (ie: “Playground Fund”).

  • Be cautious of third-party fundraisers. If a solicitation comes from a third-party company, the charitable organization will receive only a percentage of your donation. If you want to ensure the charity receives the whole amount, donate directly to the charity instead. For more information, access the New York State Attorney General’s website and review the annual “Pennies for Charity” report.
READ MORE: It pays to give
  • Pay attention to vague claims. Be on alert for claims without any clear plan such as “all proceeds go to cancer treatments” or “donations go to veterans who can no longer work.” Instead do some research on the charity before you decide.

  • Resist high-pressure tactics. Charity fraud scams can come in many forms, whether by email, social media, crowdfunding platforms, cold calls, etc. Watch out for direct e-mails from “victims” and solicitors who employ heart-wrenching stories, insisting that you donate immediately. It is highly recommended to never provide personal information to unsolicited telemarketers, but instead ask the caller to provide you with the full name of the charitable organization, , website address and contact information to research and verify.

  • Find out who's behind the crowdfunding request. Online crowdfunding websites like GoFundMe, Indiegogo and Crowdrise make it easy for people to create crowdfunding campaigns. To protect yourself, remember to only give to people you know directly. It’s also important to understand the crowdfunding site’s rules, policies, and vetting procedures. It can be helpful to know these ahead of time to determine how they are protecting consumers from potential fraud.

  • Never disclose personal information. Do not provide any personal information such as your credit card number, Social Security number, or any other personal identifying information in response to an unsolicited charitable request.

  • Never give cash. Give your contribution by check or credit card to ensure that you have a record of the donation. Make checks out to the charity, not to an individual. If you choose to make a donation via a charity's website, check that the website is secure and that your computer is equipped with the latest anti-virus protection. Check for the padlock to the left of the URL search bar to ensure the site is secure. Do not send funds to anyone asking for bitcoin or cryptocurrency as these payments typically have no protections against fraud.

  • Don’t mail checks from public collection boxes: According to the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the number of check fraud crimes nationwide has increased since 2020. To avoid this fraud, go directly to the post office to deposit mail. If you need to use a public U.S. Postal Service collection box, try to do so before the last pickup of the day to minimize the amount of time the check spends in the box.

  • Double Check before you deduct. Donations made to individuals or organizations that are not tax-exempt are not deductible. To find out if a donation will be tax deductible, research an organization’s tax-exempt status at the Internal Revenue Service Tax Exempt Organization Search. Request a receipt and track the status of your donation.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers on product safety, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.

Follow the New York Department of State on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and check in every Tuesday for more practical tips that educate and empower New York consumers on a variety of topics. Sign up to receive consumer alerts directly to your email or phone here.



Other articles by HVP News Reporters


  • Guilt-free, superfruit snacking

    Sweet treats made to permissibly indulge

    For many, enjoying a small indulgence can serve as a reward for a job well done or a mood-boosting pick-me-up. In fact, mindful snacking is on-trend for a majority of consumers. read more »
  • Getting healthier starts wth your feet

    Start your wellness goals from the ground up

    Good foot and ankle health is critical for good overall health, so no matter what your wellness goals are, be sure to start from the ground up. read more »
  • Dangerous heart conditions often go undetected in pregnant and postpartum women

    A torn ACL revealed an undiagnosed heart defect

    National Jewish Health experts advocate for screenings to detect heart conditions that may develop in otherwise healthy women read more »
  • Bald Eagle viewing in winter

    Watching them can offer an exhilarating and memorable experience

    Winter is a great time to view bald eagles in New York State. Viewing from a safe distance and at established observation sites can offer an exhilarating and memorable experience. read more »
  • Yes, you can raise healthy, smart, kind kids in a screen-saturated world

    "The Mediatrician" helps guide parents on Safer Internet Day

    Raising children in a screen-saturated world elicits fear, hope, and questions from parents, educators, and healthcare providers. The best thing to happen this year on “Safer Internet Day,” is the launch of “The Mediatrician's Guide”, developed to deliver those critical answers. read more »
  • Looking for a new career?

    Become a financial planner

    Becoming a financial planner offers both financial rewards and the chance to help others. Whether you’re a recent graduate exploring your career path or a mid-career professional seeking change, this growing profession may be the right fit for you. read more »
  • How to prep the night before the SAT or ACT exam

    Calm your nerves and enter the testing site with confidence

    Taking the SAT or ACT exam is the culmination of months of test-specific preparation, and in truth, years of schooling. While knowing that can feel like a lot of pressure, there are steps you can take the night before the exam to calm your nerves and enter the testing site with confidence: read more »
  • 7 Valentine's Day date ideas to break from the norm

    Think outside the box this year

    If you’re feeling pressure to plan the perfect Valentine’s Day date, it may be time to veer away from tradition. While flowers, chocolates and dinner for two is a classic, thinking outside the box can make for just as romantic of an experience. read more »
  • Helping infants, toddlers and families thrive

    The child tax credit is a critical policy vehicle

    A bipartisan package that recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, would expand the child tax credit (CTC). As the Senate decides whether to follow suit, advocates press that the CTC is a critical policy vehicle to help all infants, toddlers and their families thrive, and it should be implemented as soon as possible. read more »
  • What to look for when you need a law firm

    Savvy advice from Best Lawyers

    Let’s face it, no person or business gets a thrill out of hiring a law firm. Fortunately, peer-reviewed rankings have simplified the process. read more »