Last year, individual Americans donated an estimated $292 billion to charity. Before you pull out your wallet this holiday season, the South Carolina Department of Revenue and the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDCA) offer tips to make your giving safe and scam free:
- Be wary of solicitations that ask you to pay in prepaid debit cards, gift cards, wire or bank transfer. Once in the hands of a scam artist, the money is gone and difficult to trace.
- Don’t give out personal information to someone soliciting a donation. Personal information can be as valuable as cash to a criminal, who may try to convince you to part with credit card or bank account data, phone numbers, addresses, and more.
- Check out charities before donating. Scammers create fake charities before the holidays to trick people out of donations. Look out for charities with names that sound like famous charities but are not. Go to the SC Secretary of State’s website to see if the charity is registered. You can also call 1 (888) 242-7484.
- Research charities online using words like “scam” and “complaint.” You can also check a charity’s ratings with the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and Guidestar.
- Use the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search to see if your donation is tax-deductible.
- Don’t assume solicitations on social media or crowdfunding sites are legitimate. Some scammers hijack links to legitimate sites while others may misappropriate donated funds.
To report a concern about a charity or to file a scam complaint:
- Call the SC Secretary of State’s Division of Public Charities at 1 (888) 242-7484.
- File a confidential complaint online with the SC Secretary of State using their Charitable Solicitation Complaint Form.
- Call SCDCA’s Identity Theft Unit at 1 (844) 835-5322, or visit consumer.sc.gov and click the Identity Theft Unit tab.