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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 WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.