Be Aware of Charity Scams

Our top priority at The Willis Firm is to help you find a peaceful resolution to your IRS problem. But, it’s also important for us to keep our clients and friends informed about other tax related issues that could have an impact on any taxpayer. One of the biggest issues we see these days are scams. With all the natural disasters happening as of late, charity scams are popping up left and right.

The IRS has issued warnings to watch out for charity scams. They often occur after major disasters such as the typhoon in the Philippines, or the tornadoes in the Midwest. These crooks take advantage of innocent, well-meaning citizens who are just trying to help during times of disaster. The very impulse that drives them to give to charities can also make them less cautious about who they are giving to.

How can you spot a scam charity? It can be tricky because they appear to be legitimate. Such scammers may claim to be with real charities in order to gain your trust. They may also use charity names that sound similar to well-established groups. They may attack via email, leading people to official-looking websites that take phony donations. Scam websites can also be lurking at the URLs of common misspellings of legitimate organizations. Other times, they will use the phone to contact people and ask for “charitable donations.” The new trend in crowd-funding allows more opportunities than ever for charitable giving, but it also allows more opportunities to be the target of scammers.

“You can read stories about individuals in need, or organizations that may be soliciting for various projects,” says Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “Don’t assume that the organizations or individuals on those sites have necessarily been vetted to any great degree. They may have verified that the organization has tax-exempt status, and that may be it.” This means you may be able to take a deduction for your donation, but the entity you are funding isn’t necessarily putting your money to use in the way you intended.

A big concern for charity scam watchers such as the Wise Giving Alliance is that people often don’t know they’ve been scammed. They don’t expect anything in return, so the truth is not discovered until much later, only after many folks have already been victimized.

The best way to protect yourself from charity scams is to only give to highly qualified charities. You can learn which charities are qualified at www.fema.gov. Organizations like the Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Navigator also provide online information about charities, including whether they meet certain standards and how efficiently they spend their money.

Never give out personal information such as social security numbers, credit card or bank account numbers, or passwords. Your identity and money can be stolen this way. Additionally, don’t give or send cash. This is for tax purposes. If you contribute to a charity, use a check or credit card so you have documentation of the donation. Finally, If you suspect tax or charity fraud, report it to the IRS on their website, www.irs.gov and click on “Reporting Phishing.”

Most charities are reputable and they do good work in the world. But just rust remember to always be careful and do your homework before giving. Here at The Willis Firm, our experienced tax professionals are doing our best to keep you alert and informed. Visit us at http://www.irsallstar.com/our-services