Unfortunately, dishonest people sometimes prey on the sympathies of others by setting up fundraising scams. We strongly encourage you to be 100 percent confident in the legitimacy of a cause before donating. If you ever have questions or concerns about a fundraiser on YouCaring, please contact us through our help center.
Understanding how crowdfunding works includes knowing how donors can determine if a fundraiser is authentic. How can you recognize fundraising scams and how do you know the cause you’re donating to is legitimate? Below is advice on how to recognize fundraising scams and how to keep yourself and others safe.
Basic tips for avoiding crowdfunding scams
Protect yourself from crowdfunding scams by taking the following precautions:
- Only donate to campaigns on known and respected crowdfunding platforms with a history of hosting legitimate fundraisers, like those on this list of top crowdfunding sites.
- Read independent reviews of a campaign’s crowdfunding platform. See YouCaring’s reviews here.
- Avoid donating money requested via phone, mass emails, or letter-writing campaigns.
- Check the Better Business Bureau site give.org for reports of fundraising scams and bogus charities.
- Be wary of campaigns aimed at generating publicity as much as donations.
Advice from experts in fundraising fraud
Knowing that scams exist can be discouraging, but giving up on helping people who are in need isn’t the answer. So how can you tell real charities from the fake ones?
Be wary of circling sharks
Personal fundraising often occurs within a relatively small community of people, many of whom know each other. One exception to this is rule is fundraisers for disaster relief—or help for any tragedies that transcend smaller communities. Unfortunately, the widespread attention these events receive can also attract scammers. Be sure to evaluate such campaigns carefully.
It’s sad that we have to be cautious when we act on our generosity, but caution is warranted. Art Taylor, president of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, says that more than 70 percent of Americans open their wallets in such situations before checking the legitimacy of the charity.
If you’re far removed from a community affected by a disaster area, but want to help, one good way to vet fundraisers is to check local news outlets for links to organizations and campaigns they recommend giving to.
Go beyond the domain name
Barbara Spinelli loves writing about the changing trends in business, finance, and politics. Here she shares her guidelines for verifying the legitimacy of a cause before making a donation:
“The holidays are a time when family and friends gather, exchange gifts, reminisce, and sometimes offer aid and assistance to those in need. Unfortunately, there are scammers who use holidays and unfortunate events to their advantage and create fake charities that are not intended to help those who are in need. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, CNN.com reported more than 1,000 sites registered with the words Sandy and relief in their domain names. Some of these sites were registered before the hurricane hit. For example, one site urged visitors to donate relief funds to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy in Jamaica as the National Weather Service was reporting the storm was moving towards Jamaica. The site was tracked to North Carolina, but it wasn’t registered with the Secretary of State’s office in North Carolina and isn’t considered a legitimate charity.”
More than wasted money, scams are an invitation to identity theft
FBI special agent Richard Kolko warns caution as well: “Scam artists will do anything … to steal your identity and your money as you try and make donations.” To avoid falling victim to scams or of identity theft, Kolko suggests that donors use caution and apply these tips when making contributions:
- Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials, especially when they’re soliciting via email.
- Make contributions directly to known organizations, rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
- Verify the legitimacy of the nonprofit status of any organization you donate to.
- Don’t provide personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions; it could compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
Give wisely with recommendations from trusted sources
With so many charities popping up daily for different causes, it’s difficult to know which ones are legitimate and will deliver aid to those who are in need.
The charity review site CharityNavigator.org is dedicated to researching charities, asking donors for reviews, and reporting the business practices of each organization. The site offers several helpful lists for those seeking to donate, with categories such as most followed charities, most financially transparent organizations, and more.
YouCaring maintains a high level of trust
While any crowdfunding platform can be the target of fraud, YouCaring is committed to finding and eliminating fraud on our platform. We maintain a high level of trust through our dedicated trust and safety team, which investigates all allegations of fraud and monitors campaigns for signs of problems, shutting down offenders if needed.
If you encounter a fundraiser on YouCaring that you suspect may be misrepresenting information in a way that is illegal or fraudulent, please use the “Report Fundraiser” button to notify our Trust & Safety team immediately. You can find the “Report Fundraiser” button under the “About the Organizer” section on the fundraiser page. We will promptly investigate the issue by contacting the person organizing the fundraiser and asking for more information. If we’re not entirely satisfied with our investigation, we will remove the fundraiser and close the account. You can find more details on how to report suspected fraud in our frequently asked questions.