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Charity donations and online shopping scams are prevalent throughout the year, but never more than during the winter holidays. Many have no idea about the trouble they may encounter during this festive season.

CHARITY FRAUD

With many widespread publicized fundraising drives, charities often count on holiday season boosts to help support their causes. However, not everyone asking for help is genuine. Representatives from any organization should be able to talk about their cause — and are often excited to share more information about their mission.

To ensure that donations are going to the right place, ask the following:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • How will you use my donation?
  • Is my donation tax deductible?
  • Are you registered with the appropriate agencies?

Research any organization or cause you wish to donate to on your own. These organizations show how a charity spends donations and conducts business:

Be aware of red flags that include:

  • Time constraints. High-pressure or rushed donations should be avoided.
  • Names. Fraudsters may use names that sound similar to real charities and look-alike logos.
  • Vagueness. Make sure you know how your donation will be used to further the cause.
  • Payment requirements. Requesting donations in gift cards or through wire transfers should be regarded as suspicious.

SAFE ONLINE SHOPPING

Fraudsters rely on the volume of transactions to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers during the holiday season. The FTC has stated, “Overall, reports of losses to online shopping fraud by older adults more than doubled in 2020, and the numbers continued to be far higher than pre-pandemic levels in the first half of 2021.” There is no indication of this increase of fraud stopping any time soon.

Remember these online shopping tips:

  • Research. Look up any suspicious company names with the keywords “scam,” “complaint” or “review.”
  • Look for a physical address and phone number. If you have questions or problems, you’ll have a way to directly contact the company.
  • Familiarize yourself with shipping and return policies. Who pays for return shipping? How many days do you have to return an item? Is there a restocking fee? Can sale items be returned?
  • Pay with credit card. Paying by credit card offers recourse for overbilling, merchandise not received or returned items. You can file a dispute with the card issuer if there are problems. Also, do not purchase anything from online sellers that only accept payment by gift cards, money transfers or cryptocurrency. These types of payments are nearly impossible to trace and reverse.
  • Read the site’s privacy policy. You should be able to find the personal information the site is collecting, why and how it will be used. If a privacy policy is unavailable, hard to understand or disagreeable, consider using a different site.

You may recognize red flags of fraud while shopping online, but your family and friends may not. Reminders to not respond to viral posts that innocuously ask about things like birthdays, addresses, pets and children — go a long way in keeping loved ones aware and safe. Sharing basic anti-fraud tips may save them time, money and heartache.

Don’t leave anyone out in the cold this holiday season.

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