Beware of people trying to take advantage of your generosity at this time of year.

Do your research before donating money

It's the season of giving, but be careful and do your research first.

Now that Halloween is over, the countdown to Christmas has begun. It is a time of year when people are more giving, opening their hearts—and wallets—to the less fortunate.

However, the Better Business Bureau warns people to be very careful about who they give their money to. Scammers know that people are more generous around Christmas, and will not hesitate to take advantage of that generosity via fake websites, crowdfunding sites, or door-to-door solicitations.

“Do your research, and be smart about where your money goes,” urges Evan Kelly, the senior communications advisor for the BBB Serving Mainland BC.

He says that people should ask a lot of questions, such as how much money goes to those served by the charity and how much is used to run the charity as an organization.

Some charities use a large percentage of donations to pay for salaries, advertising, and day-to-day operating expenses; and while this may not matter to some donors, it pays to check. The Canada Revenue Agency website (http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/charities/) gives a comprehensive list of Canadian charities and their expenses and financial statements. “They are all doing good,” says Kelly, “but it’s a question of how you want your money used.”

The charities listed at the CRA site are all registered charities, which can provide donors with a tax receipt. However, not every charity is tax exempt, so ask before you give; and if in doubt, check the CRA website.

If someone uses high pressure tactics to try to make you donate to a charity, be wary. Check the credentials of anyone who comes to your door, by making a phone call or checking a website if necessary. If the person asking for the donation is legitimate, he or she won’t mind.

Kelly notes that the BBB has received calls about people phoning and soliciting donations, purportedly for a local police detachment and an anti-bullying campaign, but these calls are hoaxes. “The police won’t call you for donations.”

Also be wary in the wake of a disaster, as many scammers claiming to represent legitimate charities try to take advantage of people’s compassion. Online fundraisers such as Go Fund Me pages should also be thoroughly checked out before you donate. They are easy and quick to set-up and promote, and can be an easy way to raise emotions and open wallets, but they are not registered charities.

The bottom line, says Kelly, is to do your homework before giving. “Be careful about where your money goes.”

 

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