Nothing brings out scammers like an emotional tragedy such as the theater shootings in Aurora, Colo. The Better Business Bureau is warning givers to be sure they are helping worthwhile causes rather than putting money into the hands of charity fraudsters.
Scammers can quickly put polished, legitimate appearing websites online to lure emotionally engaged contributors. They are capable of mailing pleas for money, calling with sincere-sounding appeals and appearing on doorsteps as well as in shopping areas. Especially suspect are pleas with long-winded emotional “wind ups” followed by scanty details regarding the specifics of where the money will go and how it will be put to use.
Use these guidelines to assure that your gift is going where it is needed:
• Do some simple research. Verify the fundraiser’s legitimacy through online searches. Check out the contact information and whether this specific fund or organization has been publicized by news outlets.
• On-the-spot donations to solicitors are not recommended. Instead, take down their information on who they are and invest a few minutes in verifying it.
• Consider the tax issues. The IRS rules, requirements and standards for traditional charitable organizations do not apply to individuals. Such donations are not usually tax deductible. There may be complications as well for the individual recipient of direct donations as opposed to donations received through tax-exempt charitable organizations.
• Watch out for charities that have names that sound similar to well-known charities. It may be an attempt to confuse donors.
• Don’t donate over the phone. It is too difficult to verify that the person on the other end is who they say they are. Donate either at the organization or by mail to a verified address or on a secure website.
• Don’t pay with cash. Use a check or credit card. Never pay with a wire transfer.
• Refuse high-pressure appeals. If they are legit they can wait a day or two for your donation.
A “mystery shopper” scheme is using a faked Kansas return address.
Consumers throughout the U.S. are receiving letters in the mail from P. Less Sinclair Corporation, which claims to be located at 2403 S. Main, Fort Scott Kansas. That address in Fort Scott belongs to Peerless Corporation, which has been located there since 1952 and manufactures doors and windows. They have NO association with P. Less Sinclair Corporation.
Consumers are receiving a sizeable check, usually between $1,300 and $1,400, along with a letter instructing them to deposit the check and go to a website. At the website they are supposed to enter the supplied ID and Password to get their first shopping assignment.
Consumers are instructed to wire money from Western Union to Spain, then scan the receipt and upload it to the website to complete the assignment.
Consumers should know that this is not a valid work-at-home opportunity. Eventually the check from “P. Less Sinclair Corporation” will bounce and the consumer is left with the responsibility for paying back the bank.