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Giving season inspires givers to give and scammers to scam. How do we avoid them?

A man counts U.S. dollars. (Munir uz zaman/AFP via Getty Images)
A man counts U.S. dollars. (Munir uz zaman/AFP via Getty Images)

The good news? It turns out Americans are a charitable bunch, donating $471 billion to charities in 2020 according to Giving USA. Only a fraction of that money, about 20%, came from corporations. People making less than $50,000 a year gave more in relation to their total income than all but the top earners.

The bad news? Some investigations have shown scam charities are taking in up to a billion dollars a year, all from people trying to do the right thing. How do these scams work? And how can you avoid them?

Here & Now‘s Deepa Fernandes talks to Laurie Styron, executive director of CharityWatch.

Tips to avoid charity scams from CharityWatch’s Laurie Styron

  • Be on higher alert when donating to a very popular cause. Often the money goes more to overhead costs than the cause.
  • Act proactively, not reactively. Don’t just donate where you’re asked to; research charities that work with causes you care about and see where their money goes.
  • Be wary when you receive direct mail. It’s expensive to send and could indicate a charity using funds for promotional materials.
  • Avoid crowdfunding sites when possible, even for legitimate causes. They don’t have to follow the same regulations as most charities.
  • You cannot always trust charities self-reporting on where their funds go.
  • Donate with a credit card so you can dispute fraudulent charges easily if necessary.

Karyn Miller-Medzon produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd MundtGrace Griffin adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on

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