Tis the season for the all-too-common high school fundraising scam. With the school year just underway for most East Texas schools, scammers will stand outside supermarkets or other neighborhood stores asking for donations to help the local football team, band, or other cause. They may even knock on doors in your neighborhood. Most often, these fundraising efforts are legitimate and go towards a worthwhile cause, but in many cases, they are merely a way to rip-off charitable citizens. Most fundraisers will have flyers or paperwork with them, so request to see them and examine them closely. If you have any doubts, call the police.
“It’s important not to fall prey do an emotional appeal before donating to any charitable cause without first doing your homework”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “With a simple phone call to the high school, you should be able to verify the legitimacy of a ‘school fundraiser’.”
BBB urges consumers to make wise choices about their donations. Keep these BBB donation tips in mind the next time you consider giving to a charity or cause:
- Avoid Giving Cash. Cash donations are difficult to track, making it harder for consumers to get tax deductions and easier for scammers to go unnoticed. It is best to use a credit or debit card which offers consumers protection in case a problem arises. If you must write a check, make it out to the name of the charitable organization, never to the individual collecting the donation.
- Be Wary of Imitations. Keep an eye out for fake charities that imitate the name and style of well-known organizations in order to potentially steal personal information such as credit card numbers.
- Confirm Text Code Numbers. If you plan to donate by text message, confirm the text code number directly with the charity. Also, keep in mind that text message donations are typically not immediate. Depending on your cell phone provider, the donation may not show up on your bill for 30 to 90 days.
- Watch Out for High Pressure-Solicitations. Do not give in to excessive pressure for an immediate donation. Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion but short on describing what the charity will actually do to meet their organizational goals.
- Protect your Personal Information. Never give your credit card number or other personal information in response to an unsolicited telephone call, e-mail or personal message on your social media profile from someone that is soliciting a donation.
- Find out about Tax Deductibility in Advance. For your donation to be tax deductible, the charity must be tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Visit IRS Publication 78 on www.irs.gov for a current list of all organizations eligible to receive contributions that are deductible as charitable gifts.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to www.bbb.org. To report a fraud or scam, call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373.