Fraud Advisory for Donors: International Charity Fraud Awareness Week

By H. Art Taylor
President & CEO BBB Wise Giving Alliance
Oct 19, 2020

BBB Wise Giving Alliance is participating in International Charity Fraud Awareness Week (October 19-23) which is an international coalition of regulators, law enforcement agencies, charities and nonprofit associations seeking to raise charity fraud awareness. BBB WGA has produced two advisories, one for donors below and one for charities at this link.

Be Fraud Aware

While the vast majority of charities operate appropriately, there are things donors can do to help avoid potentially questionable solicitations. Keep the following points in mind as you make your giving decisions during the last quarter of the year, the most important time for giving for many charities.

  • Avoid Mistaken Charity Identity. Look at the name carefully as many charity names sound similar. Sometimes it’s because charities are raising money for the same cause, other times it’s because questionable groups are seeking to confuse you.
  • Watch Out for Excessive Fundraising Pressure. Charities that need your money today, will welcome it tomorrow. Avoid pressure to make an on-the-spot donation decision. This can be a ruse to get you to contribute without checking.
  • Be Wary of Vague Program Descriptions. Be alert to appeals that bring tears to your eyes but say little about what the charity is doing to address the problems described.
  • Find Out About Finances. While donors should not solely rely on charity financial information when making a donation decision, they should look out for charities spending very little on activities featured in appeals.
  • Check Visit BBB’s to verify if a charity meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability (i.e., a BBB Accredited Charity.)

Take Time to Check

Unfortunately, most donors don’t take the time to check out charities before they give. That one step can help contributors avoid questionable appeals and give with greater confidence. Here are three ways to check a charity before you contribute.

  • Visit the Charity’s Website. See if the charity’s website provides easy access to the type of information you would find in an annual report: a statement about their mission, a summary of accomplishments in the past year, a roster of the board of directors, and a financial summary. Also, look for a copy or a link to the group’s latest financial report with the IRS: the Form 990. If you decide to contribute, consider doing it online through the charity’s own website portal, to put your donation to work more quickly.
  • Verify Government Registration. About 40 of the 50 states in the U.S. require charities to register with the attorney general’s office or secretary of state. You can verify an organization’s charitable tax exempt status at this IRS link. In Canada, check with the Canada Revenue Agency.
  • Check for BBB Charity Accreditation. Visit charity reports on to verify if the organization meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability (i.e., a BBB Accredited Charity.) There is no charge to charities for accreditation.

Keep Your Data Safe

CHECK OUT THE PRIVACY POLICY ON CHARITY WEBSITES. As called for in BBB Charity Standard 18, charity websites should have a clear, prominent and easily accessible privacy policy of its website that covers notice, access, choice and security.

Notice – What information is being collected about me?

Access – How can I see this information and request corrections?

Choice – How can I inform the charity if I don’t want information shared with others?

Security – Are security measures in place to protect my information?

For additional implementation explanations, see the BBB Charity Standards

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