For many, the holiday season is the season of giving. But for thieves and scam artists, it's the season of taking.
One way scammers find ways to take advantage of people is by following current events.
"Just like you follow the news, they follow the news as well," FTC attorney Miry Kim said. "When there is a natural disaster, scammers are ready to pull at the heart strings and take advantage of your generosity."
Kim said watch out for pressure campaigns. Any legitimate charity is not going to rush you.
The payment options are also a way to spot a scam.
"Pay attention to how they ask you to pay," Kim explained. "If they insist you pay by cash, wire transfers, crypto, or gift card, it is likely a scam. If they tell you they don't accept credit cards or checks, it is likely a scam."
In fact, the safest way to pay is with your credit card.
Also, do some research on any charity before you pay.
"Check the charity website to be sure where your money is going," Kim said. "Check out Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, these are just some sites that highlight charities that are highly rated."
You can also check with your state regulator and the IRS website to see if the charity has tax exempt status.
And be careful with crowdfunded accounts.
"That's because the money does not go directly to the people it is intended to help, it goes directly to the organizer," Kim said.
If you think you have been the victim of a scam, report it to the FTC at reportfraud.ftc.gov.
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