Donate Wisely: Be Aware of Holiday Charity Scams

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The holidays are an important time of year for non-profits. According to Charity Navigator, charities receive an average of 41% of their donations in December. Unfortunately, scammers ramp up their efforts around the holidays, too. The solution is not to stop giving, but simply to be aware of the way criminals attempt to scam and be diligent about verifying charities and their contact information.

Common Holiday Charity Scams

Spoofing a Legitimate Charity

Scammers often pose as someone working for a legitimate charity. They may spoof their caller ID or create an email address that makes it look like they’re calling, texting, or emailing from that charity in order to earn your trust and lure you into providing your credit card information or checking account number.

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Verify all phone numbers for charities. If you want to donate by phone or text message, visit the charity's official website to make sure the number is legitimate.
  • Do not open suspicious emails. If you receive a suspicious email requesting donations, don’t click on any links or open any attachments. If you want to donate online, it’s best to visit the charity’s official site directly rather than clicking on an email link.
  • Check the website's address. Most legitimate charity organization websites use .org, not .com. Often, scammers may change a few letters of a well-known charity’s web address hoping viewers won’t notice.
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Fake Charities

Sometimes scammers may create fake organizations altogether. They may post on social media or elsewhere online to promote the fake charity. Social media is a common place for both legitimate and fake charities to market themselves, so it’s important to research the organization listed.

How to Protect Yourself:

Verify the charity before you donate. Information can be found on Charity Watch, Charity Navigator, or GuideStar.

Fake Crowdfunding Pages

Crowdfunding and other online fundraising pages like GoFundMe and Kickstarter have provided a way for many real people to get the support they need. Unfortunately, scammers may also try to use a heartfelt story and gut wrenching photos to solicit donations.

How to Protect Yourself:

  • It’s safest to stick to pages shared by people you know and consider confirming the legitimacy of the post with the person who shared it. You can also look to government agencies and nonprofit organizations that are supporting the same cause as the crowdfunding page.
  • Use a reverse photo search. Often, photos that appear in crowdfunding scams are stolen from social media and won’t correlate with the crowdfunding campaign.
  • Research the organizer. Look them up online to determine their validity.

What to Do if You Become a Victim

If you believe your Citadel account(s) may have been compromised by a charity scam, contact us immediately at 1-800-666-8191 to report the fraud. You should also consider filing a police report and reporting the activity to the Federal Trade Commission at

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