The holiday season sparks a wonderful spirit of giving and many charities use this time of year to boost donations. Along with the spirit, however, come swindlers trying to trick you out of your money or, worse, into giving up your personal bank account information. Protect yourself this holiday season by knowing how to identify charity scams.

What is a Charity Scam
Charity scams can be difficult to identify. Sometimes, a person contacts you claiming to represent a legitimate charity, but is not actually with that organization. Other times, the charity is just not legitimate. These fraudsters may contact you through calls, emails, social media, and direct mail and will ask for a cash donation, your bank account information, or might even offer to send over a courier to pick up the donation.

How to Protect Yourself
It’s best to only donate to charities you know and trust. But, if a new charity piques your interest, do your research before donating. The person contacting you will understand if you don’t want to donate right away and, if they don’t, they are probably scam artists.
Ask for detailed information about the charity, including name, address, and telephone number. Look up the charity online and call the charity directly. Charitable organizations must be registered with the state and you can verify their existence on Charity Navigator or the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. It’s also good practice to never send cash. Pay by check payable to the charity or by credit card.

Additionally, you should never provide account numbers, Social Security numbers or any personal information to strangers. If you are not sure who is contacting you, don’t give out your information.

If You Suspect Fraud
The Consumer Protection Bureau recommends you file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. If you have sent money to a charity you suspect might be fraudulent, it’s a good idea to also contact your local police department. If you feel your 1st United account information has been compromised, please contact us immediately at (800) 649-0193 so that we may assist you.

We strongly believe in the importance of charitable giving and we hope you do too. When you give, stay safe and protect yourself. And if you are donating toys or food this year, please consider dropping that by any one of our branches. We are accepting new, unwrapped toys for Toys for Tots until December 7, 2016, and non-perishable foods for the Alameda County Community Food Bank until December 22, 2016. Happy Holidays.

Steve

 

Steve
Chief Financial Officer