Donating money to charity is one of the most selfless things a person can do. Unfortunately, criminals can easily prey on these selfless acts, using a person’s desire to help the less fortunate for their own 
personal gain.

Seniors should be especially mindful of fraud schemes during the holidays. The FBI notes that seniors are most likely to have a nest egg and an exceptional credit rating, making them very attractive to criminals.

If you plan to donate money this holiday season, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers the following advice:

Be cautious when giving online. Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization.

When in doubt, check it out. When an unfamiliar organization asks you for a donation, don’t give without gathering details about the charity, the nature of its programs and its use of funds.

Check out a charity’s claims. Despite what an organization claims, charities have fundraising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims that 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting, check it out.

Think before you give. If you are solicited at home or on the street, take a minute or two to “think.” Ask for the charity’s name and address, and get full identification from the solicitor and review it carefully. Ask to see written information on the charity’s programs and finances.

Giving later might be better. Never feel pressured to give on the spot. Legitimate charities will welcome your money tomorrow. If the solicitor pressures you with intimidation or harassing phone calls, don’t hesitate to file a complaint with BBB.

Watch out for cases of mistaken identity. With hundreds of registered charities in Hawai‘i alone, it’s not surprising that some charity names sound alike. Be careful that the one soliciting you is the one you have in mind.

Watch out for charity fraud. Legitimate charities do not demand donations. They willingly provide written information about their programs, finances or how donations are used; and they never insist you provide your credit card number, bank account number or any other personal information.

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