Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holiday scam season

It's that time of year where finances run high and people are out after your hard earned dollars. Unfortunately, scams are everywhere and you have to watch out. It's gone far beyond your doorstep or phone. Now it's all over social media sites and you might be surprised at who gets involved.

Donations. This is one of the worst because they tug at your heart strings and make you want to help out. People will claim they are collecting for some family who went through a fire all the way to collecting for big name charities. Well, I'm about to give you some pointers to avoid giving your money to unsecured donation scams.

First is a big rule you need to follow. Make it your policy and don't break it. When people come to your door or call you on the phone for donations, DON'T DO IT. Almost no one goes door to door for sales anymore because of all the scams and dangers involved. None of the big charities do this. NONE of them. Even school fundraisers have instructions telling kids not to go door to door. That's not to say you have to worry about little Jimmy next door. If you know him, know his parents, and know his school, you're probably fine. Even the Girl Scouts aren't supposed to go door to door anymore. I know that's a bit extreme, but it's to deliver a point. Joe Blow who you don't know is in your area selling magazines for the Autism Society? WRONG! Get it?

Now, as for those people claiming to collect donations for big charities, there's a few things you need to know. Here is the most important:

Anyone, ANYONE, claiming to collect donations for a major charity or organization (who is not part of that organization) MUST do so with the approval of that charity or organization. If they don't, they risk themselves towards things like jail time.

Even if a person is legitimate and still doesn't have approval of the charity organization to represent them and collect donations for them, they are doing it WRONG. I have personally seen people get into trouble for posting that they are collecting for the Autism Society or March of Dimes when they had NO approval to do so.

Check this out LINK. This man was arrested for selling raffle tickets for the Make a Wish Foundation. He even claimed to be authorized but he blew a big rule. NO door to door! On top of that, Make a Wish said he was never authorized to collect donations in their name.

Make a Wish's official status is this: Anyone collecting for them in any fashion must do so ONLY after going through an approval process. That will result in a signed agreement and letter of authorization that one must be able to show upon demand.

So, even if someone is collecting legitimately, one phone call could get then arrested. Protect yourself and do it the right way if you are considering this. If someone can't show you they are legitimate (as pretty much ALL the organizations do it this way) don't give them you're money. Don't give them your money for this, no matter what.

But how else do they look convincing past that?

Maybe they are selling something? Doesn't matter. If they claim proceeds go to a named organization, they have to protect themselves by following protocol. Otherwise you just can't be sure.

Maybe they say their kid is doing it. Same answer as above. People use their kids for personal gain all the time and it's pretty sickening. "My child has cancer and six weeks to live. It's his personal wish to give to the American Cancer Society and he'll draw you a Christmas card for just five dollars so he can give." (note the quotation marks, I am NOT looking for donations at all), I have personally seen this one on the news with parents who's child wasn't sick at all. They even did the Christmas cards and were caught with over 60,000 bucks!

Maybe they claim to be advocates or some special interest group? They might even have a list of tips like this on their website. That's right, they'll advise you on how not to be scammed by practicing due diligence their way. Well, just throw their own questions back at them and see what happens. If they are legitimate they:

-won't get offended
-won't insult you or bash you in any way
-will give you a DIRECT answer
-will be able to show proof requested

When they don't give you a direct answer based on above... run.

So what do you do when you come across these people?

Two things:

1: Do not confront them. Even on the internet. Many of them are willing to be major internet bullying nightmares and you won't hear the end of it for a long long time.

2: Call authorities and inquire. Call the organization and inquire. Leave it at that and don't buy or donate if in doubt.

It's really just that simple. Protect your money and don't give it out to support fakers and scammers. Be sure to check in next time for another survival blog dealing with advocates.

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