The holiday season is fast approaching. Soon our thoughts will turn to Thanksgiving dinner, out of town guests, which in-laws to spend Christmas with and what gift to get that someone special. Along with the holidays, charities try and boost their donations while people are in a giving mood. Personally I think it’s a wonderful gesture to think about others during the holiday season, whether it’s buying food for those who don’t have food, or donating unwrapped gifts for children who might other wise not get a visit from “Santa” this year. I wish to encourage everyone reading this post to commit to at least one charitable act this holiday season.
It makes me so angry when people donate money out of the kindness of their hearts, only to become a victim of fraud. If you don’t think stuff like this happens – it does! Criminals will use any tactic possible to gain access to your money, even if it means tugging on your heart strings.
I receive a lot of e-mails on a regular basis between my blog and my personal life. Those e-mails seem to double during the holiday season. I get pitched on a regular basis to write about a variety of charities, including prompting to make my own donation. Trust me, I would love to donate to just about every charity, but I simply do not have the funds. I have to pick and choose who I can afford to donate to.
I’ve checked out a few of these sites online to learn more about the organization. There are a few I’ve come across in the past few years that set off some red flags. There is just something about the sites that don’t seem right. They don’t come off as legitimate charities. Charities are almost always non-profit so it’s very likely they couldn’t find a professional website design to donate their time to create a fancy website. That is perfectly understandable and I would never fault a charity for that. However in this day and age you can never be too sure.
If you are considering donating online and have even the slightest concern that the charity might not be legitimate, do some investigating. Google the company’s name and website and see if you find anything that would lead you to believe they are a fraud. You can also ask friends, family and co-workers if they know of the company and/or have had any experiences with them.
Another way to check is to contact the Better Business Bureau. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) even has a page specifically for donations and charities – www.BBB.org/US/Charity.
If you typically donate money during the holiday season (or even year round) another suggestion I have for you is to purchase a pre-paid debit card. Instead of making a donation using your bank’s debit card (which is linked to your checking and/or savings account) or your credit card, use the gift card instead. That way if your card is compromised the thieves cannot get away with all your money. Instead they can only steal the money that is on the gift card.
I had something similar happen to me recently. There were two purchases for an Xbox Live membership from Walmart – each costing $49+. THANKFULLY both charges were made to a gift card and not my debit card, or who knows what else they thieves could have purchased (although personally I think it’s an inside job at Walmart – who refused to refund my money). The gift card they used originally had $250 on it but on $109 and change at the time theh thieves purchased those Xbox Live memberships. Had there been more money on that card, of if it was my debit card, who knows how much more could have been purchased.
Another suggestion would be the make a charitable donation in cash (make sure to get a receipt) or in products (such as non-perishable foods, clothing, new toys…). A great way to donate to a charity that wouldn’t put you at any risk for fraud is a donation of your time. Volunteering is a fantastic way to help out your favorite charity. Even a few hours once a month would be greatly appreciated.
The best way to protect yourself against fraud when making charitable donations online is to have a ID protection in place, such as LifeLock. LifeLock monitors your identity, searches known criminal websites for illegal selling of your personal information and alerts you to any potential threats. Not only that, if you are victim of ID theft, LifeLock can help you get your life back in order.
I mentioned on my site last month about the LifeLock for Life sweepstakes. Readers have a chance play every week for great prizes. Each month’s questions pertain to a specific topic. This month’s topic will pertain to donating.
For more information about the sweepstakes you can check out my original post here, http://bit.ly/NXxMTR, or visit the LifeLock for Life sweepstakes page on Facebook, http://www.Facebook.com/LifeLock/app_260986044011824.
Some readers might find it interesting to know that October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month and National Crime Prevention Month.
Do you have any special tips for protecting yourself when making donations? Have you been a victim of fraud? If so, how did you find out about it and what did you do to fix the situation? I always love to hear from my readers. Please feel free to comment on this post.
*As a brand ambassador I am compensated for my participating however all opinions expressed are entirely my own and are not influenced in any way.