Charity scams are back in the news. They’ve been rampant since Hurricane Sandy, as con artists try to take advantage of the fact that we want to help the victims! For example: Within days after the storm, people were getting emails with subject lines that read: “Help Sandy Victims, and get $1,000 from Best Buy” but police say the email was nothing more than a scam, designed to get people to give out their credit card, debit card, or bank account numbers.

John Breyault directs the National Consumer League’s Fraud Center. He describes charity scams as the “most despicable” kind of scam, because they victimize two sets of people……Those who get ripped off, and those who need help but don’t get any money! So, to make sure a charity is legit, check with the Website CharityNavigator.org.

However, experts say it’s usually best to donate to well-known charities, like the American Red Cross, which have experience in disaster relief.

So, what are some red flags that you’re dealing with a charity scam?

  • First: Beware of callers who make you feel pressured into making a donation. 

  • Also, avoid giving money to anyone who offers to pick up your donation in person, instead of waiting for you to mail it, or, who asks for a check to be made payable to a person’s name, rather than a charity.

  • It’s also a red flag if a charity offers a prize in exchange for your donation.

Finally, security experts say never make a donation by clicking on a link, whether it’s in an email, text message, or on Facebook. Because many charity scams start with links to news stories and videos that look real. But if you click on them, you could download a virus onto your computer or smart phone, that helps crooks steal your personal information.