The individuals who run scams on the general public, and seniors specifically, look to prey on people’s generosity toward less-fortunate groups, police and firefighters, and those hit by disaster. They sound official when they call, accept donations professionally and then disappear cowardly. The National Consumers League has some advice for people who are contacted by unfamiliar charities on what to do before they donate:

  • Check it out. Most states require charities to register and file annual reports. The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance offers more information. Go to www.give.org to find out more.
  • Ask for written information. Legitimate charities won’t hesitate to provide details.
  • Beware of sound-alikes. Pay careful attention to the name of the supposed charity, as it may closely resemble a legitimate organization.
  • Ask about the caller’s relation to the charity. Many charities use professional fundraisers, so ask what percentage of donations goes to the charity.
  • Be wary of calls to support firefighters and police officers. Call the local police or fire department to see if the call is valid.
  • Natural and other disasters bring out the scammers. In the aftermath of a hurricane, tidal wave or wildfire, criminals take advantage of the outpouring of support to scam those who want to donate, and keep money out of the hands of those who need it. Check out charities that call in the wake of disaster.

Find out more about this and other scams at www.stopseniorscams.org.