Charity Phone Scams: 5 Simple Ways to Protect Against Charity Telephone Scammers

Katie Feb 19

Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide - with 1,685,210 new cases expected to be diagnosed this year in the US alone, according to the National Cancer Institute.

At such high rates, most of us know or are someone affected by cancer. So if you were to receive a call from a charitable organization asking for donations to support cancer research - wouldn't you give what you could to help?Lying Telemarketer

If you answered yes, your compassion and generosity are admirable. But unfortunately, those qualities are also what put you at risk for charity phone scams - like the telemarketing efforts the FTC accused last year of helping four cancer "charities" steal nearly $200 million from Americans.

How Charity Phone Scams Work

Charity phone scams operate by either creating a fake organization or posing as a legitimate charity. Then employing phony callers to try to con you out of cash with donation requests.

They appear legitimate and sound convincing. Often using fake identities and even spoofed caller ID, while playing off your willingness to help others in need. Common ploys include fundraisers for police or fire departments, as well as natural disaster relief funds.

Five Steps to Protect Yourself From Charity Scam Callers

1. Ask for more details.

If a caller requests a donation for a good cause, ask for more details about the charitable organization they represent - such as full name, address and how donated funds are allocated. Fake representatives may be unable to answer, get defensive or even hang up.

You can also ask for additional information via written materials. A legitimate charity will be able to provide, instead of pressing for immediate action on the phone.

2. Verify the organization's legitimacy.

Look up the organization online to verify both its existence and credentials. Legitimate local charities should be registered with your state, while national organizations can be verified through the Better Business Bureau Wise (BBB) Giving Alliance.

If you've verified the charitable organization you've been contacted about is legitimate, call them back directly to confirm they've authorized a phone campaign.

3. Keep your information private.

Never provide personal or financial information over the phone, particularly when asked for an upfront payment via wire transfer, preloaded debit card or similar.

If you do decide to donate to a verified charity, do so directly by check - made out to the charity itself, not the representative contacting you - and obtain a receipt.

4. Don't give in to emotions.

If you feel pressured into donating through guilt tactics, requested minimum contributions or suggested donation amounts - hang up. A legitimate charity will appreciate what you are able and willing to give.

And be wary in particular of callers requesting aid following a disaster that's received wide media attention. Scammers often seek to take advantage of the high emotions that come with prominent coverage.

5. Avoid unsolicited support.

By far, the safest measure is to approach charitable organizations directly to make donations - and avoid unsolicited support altogether.

What to Do If You've Been Contacted by a Charity Scammer

If you suspect you've been contacted by a charity phone scammer - hang up immediately and report the incident to the FTC.

You can also report the phone number by downloading CallerSmart's free reverse phone book app for iPhone and leaving your feedback on a suspected charity scam number. If you don't have an iPhone you can still identify callers by phone number and report scam phone numbers on our website.