BBB warns of holiday charity scams

BBB warns of holiday charity scams
According to the BBB, minorities and younger people are more likely to rely on engaging stories and sincerity and passion in a charity’s appeal when deciding whether or not to give. (Source: Ames, John)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - In the spirit of the holiday season many people aim to donate to a good cause, but the Better Business Bureau warns that you need to be careful how you donate to charitable causes this year because scammers are out there.

"If you want to give you just need to give wisely because that’s what makes a difference,” BBB’s Susann Miller said. "Don’t react on the phone at that particular moment. Do your research before you give.”

According to a BBB report, minorities and younger people are more vulnerable to holiday charity scams because they’re more likely to rely on engaging stories and sincerity and passion in a charity’s appeal when deciding whether or not to give. That same report also notes that 32 percent of millennials (ages 20-36) and 45 percent of people identified as members of generation Z (ages 18-19) say passion and sincerity is a top perceived signal of trust, as compared to only 9 percent of people ages 72-89.

When it comes to scammers taking advantage of people’s generous spirit during the holidays, local Make-A-Wish employee Rob LaMaster says there are three categories scammers typically say their “charity” benefits: kids, people with cancer, or law enforcement. LaMaster says that’s because they know those three groups will appeal to most people.

LaMaster also notes that scammers will try to use words that make them sound like legitimate and well-known charities. He advises that any time you get a call from someone saying they work for a charity organization, you need to ask questions because he says that helps weed out scammers.

Ultimately, LaMaster says scammers actions can affect legitimate charities and their efforts to do good.

“I think where it hurts us is people have a finite amount of money that they can give to charity and they want to do good with it and if they’re getting scammed then that means that money. If they give $100 to a scammer that $100 isn’t going to a charity that can actually do good work with it,” he said.

So how can you figure out if a charity asking you for money this holiday season is legitimate? The BBB says there are seven main ways.

1. Get the charity’s exact name. With so many charities in existence, mistaken identity is a common problem. Thousands of charities have “cancer” in their name, for example, but no connection with one another.

2. Resist pressure to give on the spot, whether from a telemarketer or door-to-door solicitor.

3. Be wary of heart-wrenching appeals. What matters is what the charity is doing to help.

4. Press for specifics. If the charity says it’s helping the homeless, for example, ask how and where it’s working.

5. Check websites for basics. A charity’s mission, program and finances should be available on its site. If not, check for a report at

6. Check with state charity officials. In many states, charities are required to register, usually with the office of the attorney general, before soliciting.

7. Don’t assume that every soliciting organization is tax exempt as a charity. Visit to readily check an organization’s tax status.

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