By LORI M. BUDNICK, CPA Especially during this exceptionally difficult year, countless non-profit organizations across the country are counting on the generosity of donors for financial support - and, as we approach the end of the year, many Americans
Especially during this exceptionally difficult year, countless non-profit organizations across the country are counting on the generosity of donors for financial support – and, as we approach the end of the year, many Americans will surely be looking for ways to help. The human desire to give back during difficult times is inspiring, but it’s also an opportunity for “bad actors” to take advantage of your generosity.
The FBI last week issued a formal warning regarding widespread reports of scammers leveraging the uncertainty created by the pandemic to fraudulently seek donations for organizations or causes that don’t actually exist. While certainly unfortunate, this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. Whether they’re related to natural disasters, acts of terror, or – in the case of 2020 – global pandemics, scammers have long been known to prey on crises.
As is the case with most fraud attempts, these charity scams can come in many shapes and sizes. Scammers may pose as a well-known charity and try to trick donors into contributing real dollars to a fake cause. They may blast out a link purporting to lead to a fundraising page in an effort to infect their victims’ computers with viruses. They may even claim to be a neighbor seeking to raise money for a loved one who has been impacted by the pandemic. Regardless of which fraudulent tactic they use, these scammers have one universal goal: To use your generosity against you.
The FBI is urging individuals, families and businesses to use caution as they go through the process of planning and disbursing their year-end contributions. Here are a few of the Bureau’s due-diligence tips, according to their website:
* Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether you’re donating through charities, social media, or crowdfunding websites.
* Look for online reviews of charity organizations or use information from your state’s regulator of charities or from websites like the Better Business Bureau, give.org, charitynavigator.org, or charitywatch.org to check on the legitimacy of charitable organizations.
* Before donating, ask how much of the donation will go toward the program or cause you want to support. Every organization has administrative costs, and it’s important to understand those structures.
* Never pay by gift card or wire transfer. Credit cards are safer.
* After making a donation, be sure to review your financial accounts to ensure additional funds are not deducted or charged.
* Always do your research before clicking on links purporting to provide information on the virus, purchasing COVID-related products online, or providing your personal information in order to receive money or other benefits.
To learn more about the FBI’s efforts to raise awareness about COVID-related scams, visit the Bureau’s “Scams & Safety” resources page by clicking www.fbi.gov.
Lori M. Budnick, CPA, is a partner with blumshapiro, the largest regional business advisory firm based in New England, with offices in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Virginia. The firm, with a team of over 500, offers a diversity of services, which include auditing, accounting, tax and business advisory services. blum serves a wide range of privately held companies, government, education and non-profit organizations and provides non-audit services for publicly traded companies. To learn more visit us at www.blumshapiro.com.