Written by Charlie Rownd, INUMC Risk Management

Some of the most common schemes that occur during this time of the year are charity frauds.  Scam artists exploit such events as the 9/11 terror attacks, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Irma, and the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, which typically generate extensive public and private support for victims and needy persons.  Con men solicit charitable donations through the mass dissemination of e-mails and the establishment of fraudulent Web sites, many of which incorporate the names and Web content of legitimate charities.  Depending on the sophistication of the schemes, perpetrators may request donations to be paid via cash, personal checks, wire transfers, credit card, or bank debit.  These schemes may use the names of real charities to increase their legitimacy.  Additionally, these individuals often corrupt email addresses to make the request look like it is coming from a person known to the victim.  Our churches are currently experiencing this issue so it is critical to verify any contact you receive from the requester via email.

It is important to verify where you are sending your donations to ensure that your funds are being used as you intended.  I would suggest that you utilize traditional charitable organizations during times of crisis and need.  If you have concerns about where your money is going, contact the charity directly, over the phone, through publicized contact telephone numbers.  Never rely on the person contacting you to provide a phone number to verify their credentials before donating.  You should tell the solicitor that you will call them back after you have had a chance to look up their number in the phone book.  Something as simple as verifying a phone number through published means can help save you from sending money to undeserving individuals.

If you have any further questions concerning charity frauds, please contact me at Charlie.Rownd@inumc.org.