It’s the season of giving, and for those in the spirit, telling the difference between a real charity and a con can be a challenge. Legitimate charities make a big push at year-end for last-minute annual donations. Scammers know this and make their own end-of-year push to line their pockets.
If a charity solicits you for a donation, even if your first instinct is to contribute, be careful. Many fake charities have legitimate-looking websites and names, making them hard to discern as fraudulent. Others are registered nonprofits but devote little of the money they raise to the programs they promote.
Research the charity on sites such as give.org, CharityNavigator.org or CharityWatch.org to make sure that it’s legitimate and to find out what percentage of their donations are actually used to serve their stated mission versus paying for overhead and fundraising.
Have a conversation about fraud
The holidays are a time when friends and family of all ages gather together, share updates on their lives and recount cherished memories. One thing to add to that list this year: a conversation on how to stay safe from fraud.
We know that scammers target people of all ages. Last year 40% of all scams reported to the Federal Trade Commission were from people under the age of 40, and victims over the age of 60 lose the most money to scams on average. So we are all vulnerable to these criminals, and we could all use a little help and guidance. Here are two fraud topics to talk about with your family this holiday season.
What is a question, story or phrase that no one other than your close family would know? Scams targeting parents and grandparents are only becoming more believable with the adoption of Artificial Intelligence, but no matter how realistic a voice may sound it won’t know this private memory or password. Passwords are another critical topic. We all have so many passwords that it’s hard to keep straight. This leads many to choose simple passwords or use the same one repeatedly. A quick chat about how you choose and protect your passwords could save someone you love a lot of money.
Lastly, be willing to share. Too many victims of fraud suffer in silence because they are ashamed to admit what happened to them. The truth is that scammers are sophisticated criminals and for victims sharing their story is the best way to protect others and get the support they need.
Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.
Visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or call the AARP Fraud Watch Helpline at 1-877-908-3360.
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