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For GivingTuesday, be aware of fraud

Today is GivingTuesday, the finale after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday when people are encouraged to cap days of spending on purchases by giving to charities and nonprofits, ideally in their community or region.

It’s a great nod to the needs of many of these organizations and causes. But it also can be a time for being careful about which ones you pick for your donations.

Which is why this also is Charity Fraud Awareness Week — and why the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions is joining the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in an effort to ensure donors’ money reaches real charitable organizations, not scammers taking advantage of their generosity.

“Consumers often make thoughtful contributions to charities and nonprofits, but are especially generous on GivingTuesday and in the following weeks,” DATCP Secretary Randy Romanski said in a news release. “Unfortunately, scammers know this, too. Knowing how to identify and avoid a charity scam is important to both donors and the causes they support.”

“It’s important to thoroughly research a charitable organization before making a contribution,” said Cheryll Olson-Collins, DFI secretary-designee. “There are thousands of scams and scammers seeking to trick donors out of their charitable gift and personal information. Be cautious — don’t feel pressured by emotional appeals or urgent requests for donations. With a little research and a few precautions, donors can help ensure their donations go to organizations that are genuinely serving others.”

The DATCP and DFI encourage donors to remember these tips for charitable giving —

— If a charitable organization seeks a donation, ask for more details. Ask for a name, address and phone number. Ask how much of the donation will be used for charitable purposes vs. other costs, such as administration.

— Be alert to impostor websites and social media profiles. Scammers have been known to impersonate real charitable organizations. Check for spelling errors and other discrepancies that could signify a scam.

— Do not open links or attachments in unsolicited charity emails, texts, or social media posts. These may be fraudulent, even if they appear real. Find the organization’s official website or social media account and go directly to it.

— Do not make payments in response to unsolicited phone calls. Take time to research the organization first. If a solicitor is pressuring for immediate payment and will not answer questions, be extra cautious.

— Do not pay with cash, cryptocurrency, payment apps or by wiring money. It is nearly impossible to reverse these transactions. Use a credit card or write a check directly to the organization, not to an individual solicitor.

To learn more about a charitable organization, use resources such as Give.org or CharityNavigator.org. Also, review DFI’s donor resources webpage to reduce unwanted solicitations, research charitable organizations, and verify if a charitable organization or professional fundraiser is registered with the DFI by searching the Wisconsin registrant database using this guide, calling 608-267-1711 or emailing DFICharitableOrgs@dfi.wisconsin.gov.

For more information and consumer protection resources or to file a complaint, go to DATCP’s Consumer Protection webpage at ConsumerProtection.wi.gov. DATCP’s Consumer Protection Hotline can be contacted at (800) 422-7128 or DATCPHotline@wisconsin.gov.

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