Stay vigilant against charity scams this holiday season
According to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), last year the cost of cybercrime exceeded $4.1 billion. Americans submitted 791,790 complaints in 2020, marking a 69% increase from 2019.
Charity frauds involve deceiving victims into thinking they are making donations to charities. Attackers often pose as a charity organization asking donors for contributions to charities that do not exist. In 2020, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned consumers that, “Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the coronavirus. They're setting up websites to sell bogus products and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information.”
- Fraudulent charity scams, in which perpetrators set up false charities and profit from individuals who believe they are making donations to legitimate charitable organizations, are common after disasters, which the FBI has seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Charity fraud also rises during the holiday season, when individuals seek to make end-of-year tax-deductible gifts or are reminded of those less fortunate and wish to contribute to a good cause. Seasonal charity scams can pose greater difficulties in monitoring because of their wide reach, limited duration, and when done over the Internet, minimal oversight.
- Charity scam solicitations may come through cold calls, email campaigns, crowdfunding platforms, or fake social media accounts and websites. They are designed to make it easy for victims to give money and feel like they're making a difference. Perpetrators may divert some or all the funds for their personal use, and those most in need will never see the donations.
If you are a victim of an online scam, the FBI recommends reporting the activity to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov, regardless of dollar loss. Provide as much relevant information in the complaint as possible.
Below is an example of what a charity fraud email could look like: