FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) — Tis' the season...For holiday scams. People looking to give back to their community need to be on the lookout.
The Better Business Bureau estimates about one-third of all charitable donations happen during the holiday season.
The latest charity scam reported to the Northern Indiana BBB? A report of a person using their children and school to sell fake coupon books.
Maria Omar with the BBB says one of the easiest scams nowadays are charities with familiar sounding names.
"Spellings and other information, other details. It's a good idea to review the name carefully...They're going to count on the fact that the name sounds familiar enough that you are not going to look at the discrepancies and you're going to donate right away," Omar said.
If you go online to do more research, you need to be on the lookout for those scammers using similar looking websites to those that are legit.
"A lot of scammers use look-a-like dummy websites, fraudulent websites that are very similar," Omar said. "You can kind of spot them if they don't have the 's' in the "https" part of the web address. If they don't have that, that's a red flag."
You'll also want to make sure you avoid emotional, on the spot appeals for donations while in store.
"Just because a certain big box retailer is pushing you to give a donation at the time of checkout, don't feel under pressure to do that. Take your time, research the organization. Don't depend on the retailer to point you out to a legitimate charity."
To research any charitable organizations
You can use the national association of state charity officials website to determine if they’re actually registered with the attorney general’s office.
Give.org is another resource to use to find out more information about a charity.
Irs tax exempt organization search.
People shopping for holiday gifts need to use the same caution when buying gifts. Scammers tend to use the same cyber techniques, like using dummy websites to steal your credit card info.
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill has offered the following tips for shoppers:
- When you go shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, conceal your purchases in the trunk of your vehicle rather than leaving them in plain sight through the windows.
- Secure your home deliveries. Beware of “porch pirates.”
- If you have packages arriving at your home and are not going to be there to receive them, make sure you have a place where they can be hidden from view on your porch.
- Or see if you can have the packages delivered to a secure location where you can pick them up when you are able.
- Consider teaming up with trusted neighbors to keep watch on one another’s properties.
- Security systems with cameras are always an option.
- If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Be skeptical of deals and ask questions as needed.
- Be sure to read the fine print to make sure you are purchasing exactly what you want.
- Closely check the emails that you receive for holiday deals to make sure that they are from the companies they claim to represent and are not from scammers or imposters.
- Proactively go to companies’ official websites yourself rather than just clicking on a link emailed to you.
- To protect your personal information, don’t make online purchases while using public Wi-Fi. Never make a hurried decision.
- Scam artists want to pressure you into a making a quick decision to buy from them.
- Slow down and check out the story for yourself first.
- Make purchases using a credit card if you can. Always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize.
- You can reverse charges or dispute a charge with your credit card company if necessary.
- It is more difficult to dispute charges on your debit card or obtain your cash back.
- If you are purchasing gift cards, make sure you know the expiration date, as well as the terms that apply to the card.
If you're a victim of fraud, make sure you report the scam to the BBB and the Indiana Attorney General's office.