Chenda here, with AllClear ID. We talked to you about charity fraud during the holiday season, but since many of you may have some extra cash after this tax season, we thought we would revisit tips on how to prevent identity theft when it comes to donating to charity.

Charity fraud is similar to credit card fraud or other types of cyber crime in that it occurs when scam artists use techniques such as telemarketing, direct mail, email and online ads, to mimic real charities and scam consumers into not only donating money to a fraudulent cause, but giving their personal information away to identity thieves. Giving money to a charity may seem like a relatively benign and safe process, but it may not be when there are unscrupulous individuals out there waiting to take advantage of your kindness and gain access to your information.

The FTC recommends the following guidelines when deciding how to prevent identity theft when donating to a charity:

  • Ask for the name, address, and phone number for the charity, as well as written information about its programs and services
  • Ask whether the person contacting you is a professional fundraiser and how much of your contribution will go to fundraising costs
  • Every state has an office that regulates charities: Check the history of the organization or charity that you are interested in by visiting the National Association of State Charity Officials: http://www.nasconet.org

When deciding whether or not to make a donation, trust your instincts! If you feel pressured or uncomfortable giving, you can always decline to make the donation. Don’t feel bad about waiting to give only when you feel completely comfortable doing so.

The FTC recommends that consumers watch out for these telltale signs of a charity scam:

  • High pressure pitches. Reject them: It’s okay to hang up.
  • A thank you for a pledge you don’t remember making. Be skeptical; scam artists will lie to get your money.
  • Requests for cash. Avoid giving cash donations.
  • Charities that offer to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect your money.
  • Charities that guarantee sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution.
  • Charities that spring up overnight, especially those that involve current events like natural disasters, or those that claim to be for police officers, veterans, or firefighters.  They probably don’t have the infrastructure to get your donations to the affected area or people.

For more detailed information about making charitable donations, please check out the FTC article “Charitable Donations: Give or Take”