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More people are showing an interest in giving back to the causes that are important to them. If philanthropy is something that appeals to you, it’s important to learn more about how charities operate and how unscrupulous people take advantage of donors to line their own pockets. Learning how to protect yourself is as important with philanthropy as it is in pursuing any business endeavor.

Is it a Legitimate Charity?

This is your primary concern. Don’t be afraid to investigate any charity to ensure they are registered as a public 501(c)(3) organization. If they are, they should be able to provide you with their EIN (Employer Identification Number), which you can use to verify that they are compliant with IRS regulations. If they can’t provide proof of their 501(c)(3) status, you’re better off to walk away and look for a different organization.

Google the Organization

A legitimate nonprofit organization is going to have an authentic website that provides plenty of information about their 501(c)(3) status, as well as providing information about their mission, goals, and ethics. You can also tell a legitimate website by the web address. Addresses ending in .com are less likely to be genuine, while those ending with .org are more likely to be run by legitimate nonprofit organizations.

Choose Your Payment Method Wisely

Resist making donations with cash, gift cards, or money orders. If the organization in question insists on one of these payment methods, this should raise alarms that something isn’t quite right. When you pay by check or credit card, you can ensure the transaction is secure and you’ll have a record of the transaction. This will provide you with proof, which you can use to ensure the correct amount was charged to your account.

Watch Out for Common Tricks

You might get an email thanking you for making a donation that you never made. This is a trick to try to get you to make a donation to that particular organization. Similarly, some scammers set up fake phishing sites and direct you there to make donations to an organization that seems familiar to you. This tactic can be used to access your financial data, so they can use your financial accounts for their own purposes. These are just a few of the most common tricks that criminals use to try to trick you out of your money. Always verify that your donations are going to the intended recipient.

Taking the time to learn how criminals scam donors and philanthropists is important, because their crimes are taking resources away from those in need. When you’re more educated about giving to charities, you can ensure your money is going to the organizations that will do the most good with it.