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‘Tis the season for giving…gifts, donations, time and more.

The holidays bring a certain cheery-ness and togetherness brought on by a season of thankfulness and reflecting on the past year. That often means people are feeling more generous and end-of-the-year giving increases.

If you are considering donating to a charitable organization, consider these tips to keep your account information out of the hands of fraudsters.

Tips for identifying online giving scams

  • Think twice before making purchases with charitable giving incentives. There are ads popping up on social media promoting a variety of products with the added bonus: each purchase you make includes a donation to a charity. The catch, though, is that you never receive your purchase, your follow-ups go unanswered and the charity you thought you were helping never sees a dime.
  • Ask for more details. If you see a request for donations from someone online—via email or social media—don’t be shy about asking for more details on the organization they are asking you to support and where your money will be going. This can help you determine if it is an organization or cause you want to support, as well as verify that it is a real organization. Try to take the conversation offline, if possible, just in case their account has been hacked. Texting (or calling) can help you verify that it’s really your friend or family member raising funds for a charity.
  • Avoid clicking links. Seems counterintuitive, right? You need to click on the link to donate, so why are we asking you not to click? It’s fairly easy for fraudsters to spoof charitable organizations by using a URL or link that looks close to the real deal (for example, it may have misspellings). Instead of following the link, type the name of the organization and the word “scam” or “reviews” into your preferred search engine to see what others are saying.
  • Don’t use gift cards to donate to a charity. If you are being asked to “donate” money using gift cards or by transferring money, odds are very high a fraudster is eagerly waiting for you to hit “submit.”
  • Double-check the terms and conditions. When it comes to giving online, there are many reputable organizations fundraising online, as well as many companies that provide online fundraising platforms. Whether you are giving to a local or national nonprofit, supporting a political campaign or giving to another charity, always check the terms and conditions. What may seem like a $25 one-time pledge may actually be a recurring (weekly, monthly, annually, etc.) donation that is automatically charged to your credit card.

What you can do

  • Go old school and take your giving offline. If you see what seems like a great opportunity (such as a matching campaign when you donate within a certain time frame), you may be tempted to take immediate action and not think twice. Hit the pause button on your donation and take time to do your research on the organization, or even call and ask a friend about the cause. Then, if you are still not sure about donating online, consider not donating to that cause or mail your donation instead.
  • Bring it back to your budget. You knew this one was coming, but before you make a quick decision based on an ad or post you saw online, check your budget to see if this potential giving expenditure fits. If it doesn’t, take some time to sleep on it and save the link for another time when it fits better with your budget. We know that urgency often portrayed in online giving requests can make it feel like you have to give RIGHT NOW, but if you didn’t know about the need before you started scrolling on social media, odds are it’s OK to wait it out until you have more wiggle room in your budget.
  • Keep your emotions in check. In addition to limited-time donation matches, some online fundraising or giving scams tap into other emotions to get you to act first and think later. This could be empathy by hearing a story of a sick child in need of money for treatment, or even happiness knowing you are helping address a need at a nonprofit. If you are basing your decisions on how you feel in the moment, you may be at increased risk for being scammed by a fake fundraiser or online giving plea.

How Verve can help

If you think your Verve account is at risk because of an online giving or fundraising scam, online purchase or any other type of scam, call Verve at 800.448.9228. One of our team members can look at your account with you to verify there are no suspicious transactions, help you cancel your card if you’ve entered your number into a questionable website, as well as guide you on how to safeguard your account against fraud.

It’s Verve’s goal—in line with our seven guiding Cooperative Principles—to provide education, training and information to help our members stay financially fit. Verve is committed to keeping our members educated when it comes to their finances by providing details on financial risks and ways to stay safe. Help your friends and family stay safe against social media scams by sharing this blog post.