The war in Ukraine is on-going, and criminals are posing as charity organizations to scam good people out of their hard-earned money. Shield yourself from scams as you donate to the causes you care about by enlisting the tips below.
How to protect your wallet while donating
1. Make sure the organization is who they say they are
People who contact you by email or over the phone can pretend to represent a charity, even one you’ve already supported, right down to spoofed phone numbers and real-looking email addresses. If it’s an organization you’re not familiar with, insist that they send you a solicitation through the mail. This is never a problem for legitimate charities. If you want to confirm they are who they claim to be, call or email them back, either through the organization’s main number or a website.
2. Beware of unusual or specific payment methods
Legitimate charities (and beneficiaries) will not need payment in gift cards, pre-paid debit cards, Apple Pay, cryptocurrency, or especially cash. Asking for contributions in this fashion is usually a ruse not only to hide what they take in, but to make your contribution untraceable and worse, unrecoverable.
3. Check the consistency of any story you’re told
Fraudsters usually can tell a personal story. Often, it’s a specific and very sympathetic person who needs your help immediately. Despite the supposed seriousness, give some thought to the details of the story. Does the geography make sense? If the claim is that a loved one in stuck in another country, were they ever there to begin with? Is there a simpler solution than the one you’re being asked to fund? Someone stranded in a foreign country, for instance, should be seeking help from their government through a consulate, not from a stranger on the Internet.
4. Don’t give into pressure to “act now!”
If the story is a swindle, the crooks know that eventually it will unravel. That’s why they like to impose artificial deadlines for you to help. That urgency is usually just to get you to send your money before you’ve had time to think it through. If they can’t give you time for careful consideration, you shouldn’t be giving them any money.
5. Talk it over first with someone you trust
Any time you’re asked to contribute money on short notice, it’s best to talk through the cause, the request, and the process with a family member or friend whose judgment you trust. Many victims of fraud were reluctant to ask for a second opinion out of embarrassment. It’s always better to be a little embarrassed over what you almost fell for than to be a lot embarrassed and out hundreds or thousands of dollars.
6. Build your support system
Many victims of fraud fall prey to con artists because they don’t have a dependable support system or because they’re lonely and the opportunity to help someone else gives them a sense of purpose. People, particularly older adults, are far less vulnerable when they have regular social engagement and positive relationships in their lives.
The war in Ukraine is just one example of a disaster that scammers have used to solicit money illegally. Visit the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) website for the latest fraud and scam alerts. For more information and tips, visit General Electric Credit Union’s (GECU) fraud page. If you ever suspect you’ve fallen victim to a scam, don’t wait to report it. Contact the Credit Union immediately. To learn more about scams and fraud, watch one of our complimentary, on-demand webinars. Or, read through the security and fraud section of our Money Minutes blog.