Charity Scams: How to Tell The Fakes from the Real Charities

Charity Scams

Especially in the aftermath of 911, charity scams have proliferated. Emails arrive daily telling about often true disasters, like the Tsunami in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, and asking for you to donate. they are virtually ALL scams.  Legitimate aid agencies do not send out spam or bulk emails.  Here's how to know and what to do.

  • If you're approached by an unfamiliar charity, check it out.  Most states require charities to register with them and file annual reports showing how they use donations.  Ask your state or local consumer protection agency how to get this information.  The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance also offers information about national charities.  Call 703-276-0100 or go to

  • Be cautious about emails seeking charitable contributions.  Many unsolicited email messages are fraudulent.

  • Beware of sound-alikes.  Some crooks try to fool people by using names that are very similar to those of well-known charities.

  • Ask how donations are used.  One of the most important things to consider is how much of your money goes to fundraising and administrative costs, rather than to the charitable work itself.

  • Be wary of requests to support police or firefighters.  Some fraudulent fundraisers claim that donations will benefit police or firefighters, when in fact little or no money goes to them.  Contact your local police or fire department to find out if the claims are true and what percentage of donations, if any, they will receive.

  • Be especially cautious when there are natural or other disasters.  Fraudulent charities take advantage of those situations to trick people who want to help the victims.   If you're not sure whether a charity is legitimate, check it out with your state charities regulator and the BBB before you donate.

And please let us know about any suspicious calls or emails you receive.  We look for patterns so that we can alert the authorities and victims to new scams, before it is too late!




For a comprehensive list of national and international agencies to report scams, see this page.