Opinion: Natural Disasters Breed Scammers
We've just passed the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, but charity scam season is in full swing.
While our generosity is needed, we also need to be on the lookout for charity scams. After tragedies, scammers come out in droves to take advantage of our good intentions. These fraudulent charities not only can cost you money, they also divert donations away from the needy.
Older adults are often the targets of charity schemes. According to the FBI, seniors are attractive targets because they are more likely to be financially secure. Older adults were raised to be polite and trusting. Seniors are also less likely to report fraud, and sometimes have nobody report it to.
So what can we do to protect ourselves? We just need to use our heads while still giving from the heart.
First, we all need to be more skeptical. Sham charities often mimic the real thing in thier names and web addresses. A quick internet search will help you find the real deal. Also, look closely at website addresses. Most charity websites will end with .org. Donating by text? Make sure that the number you're texting is really theirs.
Second, be proactive, not reactive. Seek out charities, rather than letting them find you. Don't let anyone rush you into a financial gift. And do some research on the organization through a watchdog site like charitynavigator.org or guidestar.org.
Finally, protect yourself financially. Never donate by cash, gift card or wire transfer. Instead, pay by credit card or check, both of which are trackable. And never give out personal information like your Social Security number, bank account numbers, or date of birth to a solicitor.
If you think you've been the victim of a charity scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP. Your call could protect others in the future.
Our generosity after Hurricane Dorian is needed. Let's all make sure that our donations count.
- Sherry Young is the Elder Abuse Prevention Coordinator at the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida. For information about AAASWFL, contact the Elder Helpline at 866-41-ELDER or visit https://www.aaaswfl.org