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7 tips to avoid getting scammed on Giving Tuesday

Avoid online and computer scams
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Giving to worthy causes on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving has become a tradition for people who want to help charities and nonprofits. But the Better Business Bureau warns that scammers could also be tugging at your heartstrings on Giving Tuesday.

Thousands of legitimate local and national groups use social media and email appeals to spread their messages — and so do the cheats, said Tracy Hardgrove of the St. Louis Better Business Bureau. Their scam appeals might direct donors to websites that look authentic or that have names similar to real charities. 

“It’s usually in the form of copycat charities,’’ Hardgrove said. “They might have ‘cancer’ in their name, and you might be thinking you’re donating to the American Cancer Society, but, in fact, you’re not. And so it’s not going to the cause you think it is.”

Giving Tuesday has mushroomed in popularity since it was started by a New York charity in 2012. Donors contributed nearly $300 million to more than 50,000 nonprofit organizations during the day-long appeal in 2017, according to the #GivingTuesday website.

Donors should give wisely, Hardrove said. She encourages people to consider ahead of time which charities they want to support and how much they plan to give — and to avoid making impulse donations to groups they're not familiar with.

“People tend to give with their heart sometimes and not with their head,’’ Hardgrove said. “And so we want people to just take a step back and take into consideration a few things before they click that button.”

Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau for avoiding scammers on Giving Tuesday:

* If you are responding to an online appeal, check the name and web address to make sure they match the organization you want to support.

* Check to make sure a website is secure and has a privacy policy regarding your personal information. Avoid appeals that ask for too much personal information, including sensitive information such as birth dates and Social Security numbers. The addresses of secure websites begin with https://

* If you are not familiar with a charity, do some homework before contributing. You can always give to that organization at a later date. Information about programs and finances are often included on a charity’s website, or are available when requested. At least 65 percent of contributions should be going to a program’s mission.

* Be wary of emotional appeals that don’t explain how donations will be used.

* When buying items that promise to contribute a portion of the price to charity, ask what that “portion” is and whether there are limits on the total contribution.

* If you are concerned about the deductibility of contributions, check with a tax professional or the IRS website.

* Resources on charities include Guidestar and the Better Business Bureau’s guide to charitable giving.

Follow Mary Delach Leonard on Twitter: @marydleonard

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.

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