News & Updates


Wise Giving Wednesday: Email Fraud Directed at Charities

Oct 9, 2019

If you received an email that appeared to be from the CEO of your organization asking if you were at your desk, would you respond? Not surprisingly, many of us would. Next, you would likely receive a follow-up email asking you to urgently obtain and forward some gift cards or some other immediate financial request.

This is an example of an email scam known as business email compromise fraud. Attempts just like the one described happened more than once at the BBB Wise Giving Alliance in the past year and are probably also taking place at charities across the country. What signals some recipients that something is amiss is the part that asks you to forward something of immediate value (gift cards), unusual (tax information on employees) or urgent manner.

This email fraud can also take a variety of forms. The subject line might be “follow-up,” “urgent/important” or some other topic that gets your attention. So, how can organizations protect themselves from this scam?

  • Hover over the name in the “from” section of the email to see if the address is actually originating from the organization’s executives. Keep in mind that some scammers might create an email address that looks awfully similar to the actual one being used.
  • If the request sounds odd, verify by calling your boss or send a separate email, typing their correct email address on your own, and ask if they know anything about the request you received.
  • For all internal emails in your organization (i.e., staff members communicating with each other), use a secret code, such as the number 456, in all your internal email subject headings so that other staff members know this is an actual email originating within the office itself. Do not share or display that code with anyone outside the office.  Periodically change the code.
  • Develop and distribute protocols for the security of personal data on employees and how any transfer of funds is to be completed.
  • Should a breach take place, set up a procedure, in advance, about how to handle the circumstances and prevent others from being taken by a similar approach.

For additional advice on this subject, see the following Better Business Bureau article:

Video of the Week

As part of our Building Trust Video Series, we are pleased to provide a video featuring Fred Puffenberger, Executive Director of the VFW National Home for Children (a BBB Accredited Charity), an organization that works to provide children and families of active-duty soldiers and war veterans with resources and housing for up to four years at no cost to the families.

Recent Reports

We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include:

Finally, remember to let us know by going to if you are  interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.

H. Art Taylor, President & CEO  
BBB Wise Giving Alliance