Beware of Predatory Charities' Holiday Scams

posted on December 26, 2015

They say good things are worth repeating so while we all want to help those less fortunate this holiday season, a recent E-newsletter cited tips from Reader’s Digest (RD) on how to protect yourself from charity scams. It’s the end of the year, so charities—both good and bad—are ramping up fundraising efforts. RD warns the bad ones can be quite big, singling out the Red Cross as one group to watch. To that list, HumaneWatch includes the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Priding itself on keeping a watchful eye on the HSUS, highlighted two of RD’s tips, in particular.

  • Never give over the phone in cold-call situations. Keep your donations out of telemarketers’ hands by donating through the group’s website or mailing a check.
  • Perform due diligence. Look into the group’s finances, and once you give, follow up to find out how the money was spent.

Remember: Telemarketers can use guilt trips or other tactics to entice you to donate over the phone, but a charity may not see a penny of that—possibly by design of the charity. For instance, in recent telemarketing campaigns conducted for the HSUS, HumanWatch reports that all of the donor money collected went to the for-profit solicitor—not to the animals. While HSUS telemarketing and TV ads with cats and dogs are designed to spur impulse giving, the HSUS doesn’t run a single pet shelter—and only 1 percent of the money raised goes to pet shelters. (Due diligence: That data comes from HSUS’s own tax return.) In fact, HSUS puts more money into its pension plan than it gives to pet shelters.

HSUS is by no means the only predatory charity out there. Be sure to do your research before you give.


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