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How to avoid holiday charitable donation scams

Florida CFO: 1 out of 4 households impacted by scams in 2016

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Scams come along with the holiday season, and officials are warning Floridians to be alert for online charitable donation scams that typically use crowdfunding websites such as GoFundMe, RocketHub or YouCaring.

"In 2016, one out of four households were impacted by scams  and cost individuals and families $50 billion. Recent reports uncovered that the scam involving a New Jersey couple who raised nearly $400,000 on GoFundMe for a homeless man was a joint scheme by the couple and man to cash in. With the holidays right around the corner, it’s important that everyone be on the lookout for charitable donation scams that prey on the giving spirit and then steal from those who need it most," said Florida chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis.

Tips to Avoid Holiday Online Donation Scams:

1. The More Information the Better. Stay away from donation campaigns that don’t provide adequate information about where the money will go and the relief it will provide. 

2.  Ignore Email or Texts from Unknowns. If you receive a solicitation to donate online via email or text from an entity or person you don’t know, delete it. These are almost always scams. 

3.  Ask Questions. Typically, there are ways to comment on an online donation campaign. Use that tool to ask questions about how the money will be distributed, who the money will go to, and even how much goes to directly support efforts.

4. Check Social Media & Research. If a group or individual is unfamiliar to you, research and research again. Scam artists will often times create a social media page right before they launch the donation campaign, so check to see how long their account has been active. Even check the image they used for their profile to see if it’s a stock image, which is a good indication the campaign is a scam. Even if the name of the group or individual sounds familiar, always do your homework.

5. Keep Records. Be sure to note exactly how much you donated, the name of the individual or group launching the donation campaign and any additional information that has been supplied. Even consider taking a screenshot of the web page. 

6. Don’t Feel Pressured. Those who are running online scams typically try to pressure you to donate IMMEDIATELY.