As we close in on the final months of the year, the opportunities to make donations to worthy causes is going to increase significantly. I know I always receive requests from organizations I support annually to make my standard donation (0r to consider increasing my donation) before December 31, which is the deadline for it to count for this year’s tax deductions.
In additions to these requests, which I anticipate, I also receive new solicitations for support. Some of those are local, but MANY of them are national or even international. I typically receive these requests via email or even from Facebook. And it is becoming increasingly common to read online about particular individuals or families who are enduring some sort of crisis and who could use some financial assistance. Those posts, in particular, tend to tug at heart strings. And I would venture to say that the vast majority of them are true. But you would be wise to take just a few minutes to do your homework before you open up your Paypal account, or even worse, get out your credit card information. There are some red flags to watch for to make sure your identity is not about to get stolen.
First and foremost, I want to discourage you from making a donation over the phone, ESPECIALLY to an organization who called you. Unless you have caller ID that can trace the source of the call back to the organization, you really don’t know for sure that the person is calling from that organization. Additionally, even if the request is small (maybe just $5), the intention is not to collect much money from you during that call, but rather, to get your personal information so that your identity can be stolen later. It’s very risky to donate money this way, and if you have never donated to the organization before, steer clear of this “opportunity.”
I would say the same thing for anyone who shows up at your doorstep requesting donations for an organization. Basically, any time you are handing over your personal information to an individual, who has the potential to copy that information for their own personal use, take extra precautions.
Any reputable charity that seeks a donation from you will not pressure you to make a donation on the spot and will welcome the opportunity for you to do your research prior to giving. The Better Business Bureau can be a great resource for checking out how legitimate a nonprofit actually is.
As the holidays approach, please do continue to be generous to the causes you care about, by all means. Just take measures to ensure you are smart about where you give and HOW you give. Volunteering your time instead of your money is a great way to ensure that your identity is protected, so that’s one option to keep in mind. You can also make in-kind donations. For example. my church is having an auction in November to raise money and my family is donating several items that attendees can bid on and that should bring in some money for the organization. We clear out some clutter and the church raises funds. Win-win!
Another option is to simply make sure you have identity theft protection in place so that as you make a donation online, you can do so with confidence. LifeLock does a fantastic job of alerting members to possible threats to identity. And should you find yourself in the unfortunately position of having your identity compromised, LifeLock will be on hand to help you sort everything out and get back on track as quickly as possible. As someone who has been through this situation MULTIPLE times, I can say that having someone have your back is HUGE and will relieve much of the stress!
In 2011, 11.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft. The threat is so, so real. And unfortunately, opportunities to make donations are one of the ways that information does get stolen. Please do keep your security in mind as you are approached for donations this year. Be smart and don’t give out your information to just anyone!
This month the LifeLock for Life sweepstakes on the LifeLock Facebook page also deals with issues related to making donations online. Remember that you can play every single week to win fantastic prizes (this month 5 winners will get a$100 donation to the charity of their choice, and 1 winner will get $1,000 to the charity of their choice! Woo hoo!). You’ll also learn some very useful information about ways to protect your identity (that’s one of my favorite things about the game…it teaches me something every time!).
I am a compensated ambassador for this brand. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are strictly my own.