Consumer Reports Web Watch: Giving to Charities Online – Tips for Consumers

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Holidays are a time for giving — and scamming, unfortunately. Consumers can find themselves inundated with donation requests during the holiday season. While the Internet makes charitable giving easy, consumers should keep in mind the following tips before giving online:

  • Be wary of charitable appeals made over e-mail or related to current events, such as natural disasters, terrorism or the holidays. Fraudsters often use tragedies and recent events as hooks to inspire giving, experts say.
  • Make sure the non-profit site lists an address and phone number.
  • Call the charity’s phone number and ask for its registration number, which every U.S.-based non-profit organization is required by law to have. Then share that registration number with the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (http://www.give.org), or the attorney general’s office in the state in which the non-profit is located (http://www.naag.org/ag/full_ag_table.php, for each state office’s Web site and phone number) to confirm the non-profit’s validity.
  • Consider verifying the ownership of the site by using Network Solutions’ “Whois” function (http://www.networksolutions.com/en_US/
    whois/index.jhtml
    ) to confirm the site is, in fact, registered to charity representatives.
  • Pay by credit card rather than debit card online, as credit cards offer the greatest consumer protections in the event of fraud.
  • Check that the Web page asking for your credit card information is secure. Look for “https” at the beginning of the url on that page, which indicates it is encrypted for security