Which Charities are Legitimate?

9 tips for donating to worthwhile charities, a useful tool for avoiding phishing scams, the Junk Fax Prevention Act, and more: Internet ScamBusters #82

Internet ScamBusters™

The #1 Publication on Internet Fraud

By Audri and Jim Lanford

Copyright © Audri and Jim Lanford

All rights reserved.

Issue #82

Hi Everyone,

Today we have another ‘Snippets’ issue for you. You’ll find suggestions on how

to know if charities are on the up and up before you donate — as well as nine

tips for making sure your money goes to worthy charities; a useful tool to avoid

phishing scams; info on the ‘The Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2004′ (with a suggestion

that you write your Member of Congress if you live in the US); as well as a humorous

site to enjoy.

But first, a couple of important items:

First, we’ve started sending short notices to subscribers to let you know when

each issue is posted online.

The reason we’re doing this is because so many subscribers who are not getting

ScamBusters (because of the filters) requested we do this. Since so much of the

information we discuss is scam-related, our newsletters are frequently captured

by the filters.

Unfortunately, we have no good way of only sending these notices to some subscribers.

However, we’re now aiming at sending the main issue out on Wednesdays, and the

follow-up Friday morning, and labeling each one clearly.

For more advanced subscribers: If you regularly get the main issue and you want

to file or delete the notices in your email program, we will (from now on) use

the phrase ‘ScamBusters Now Online’ in the Subject Field of the short notice.

Second, we have a new promo we think many of our subscribers will find very useful. 

It’s about improving your

credit — free credit reports, credit cards, mortgages, other loans,

bankruptcy, repairing your credit, identity theft and much more.

(Remember, it’s these promos that keep Internet ScamBusters free. And we only

recommend products we review, highly recommend, and use ourselves.)

OK. Let’s get started…

How to Know if Charities are Legitimate

We recently got a question from a number of subscribers who wanted to know how

they could be sure the charities that were soliciting them were on the up-and-up.

Although most charities are legitimate, there are quite a few charity scams. And

you certainly don’t want to give your money to scammers!

Here are nine tips to ensure your money goes to worthy causes:

1. Do some research on the charity. If you’re trying to figure out whether or

not some particular US charity is worthy of support, check out:

==> http://www.give.org/reports/index.asp

They publish their standards for rating charities, and then rate over hundreds

of different charities using these standards.

2. Don’t give to charities where most of the money goes to executive salaries,

administrative costs and fundraising. The website we just recommended, Give.org,

presents a pie chart that shows the percentage of money going to programs vs.

administration and fundraising.

3. Always find out the exact name of the charity before you send a check. Many

fraudulent organizations select names that sound very similar to a legitimate


4. Make sure the charity is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal

Revenue Code (again, for US subscribers). Otherwise, you won’t be able to deduct

your contributions on income taxes.

5. Never donate if the caller uses high-pressure tactics or insists you donate


6. Always ignore phone calls, letters and emails telling you that you won money

or a prize from a charity, unless you specifically entered a contest. These are

almost always fraudulent.

7. Avoid charities that won’t send you written material before you donate because

it’s ‘too costly.’ If an organization has something to hide, it’s very likely


8. Don’t give cash donations, especially to door-to-door solicitors. If you know

the charity and want to contribute, never write a check made out to ‘cash.’ Always

make sure the check is payable to the full name of the charity — that way it

can be cancelled if you suspect fraud.

9. Never give your credit card number to door-to-door solicitors, or in response

to a bulk email. In fact, don’t give your credit card number unless you are completely

confident about the authenticity and good intentions of the charity. Otherwise,

you may find yourself the victim of credit card fraud — or even worse — identity


Useful Tool for Avoiding Phishing Scams

SpoofStick is a very simple tool that shows you exactly what webpage (URL) you

are currently on — not the ‘spoofed’ site that a scamster wants you to believe

you’re visiting.

For example, you get an email asking you to visit eBay, and you click on the link

and find you’re at http://www.a-long-domain-name-with-ebay-in-it-somewhere.com

you know something is wrong.

SpoofStick is a toolbar for Internet Explorer and Firefox — and is very simple

to use. In fact, you can even adjust the height of the toolbar — a nice touch.

For more, visit:

==> http://www.realtimecredentials.com/spoofstick/

The Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2004

For those subscribers in the US:

In the spirit of naming laws exactly the opposite of what they do, the "Junk

Fax Prevention Act of 2004," HR 4600, passed out of committee last week.

This law would repeal the current ban on junk faxes. Instead, if this law passes,

you’d be required to opt-out of each junk faxer’s list — individually.

Although far from perfect, we’ve noticed a very dramatic drop in junk faxes since

the current law went into effect.

For those of you who don’t want to be inundated with more junk faxes, we suggest

you write your Congressman or Congresswoman ASAP, since this bill may reach the

floor of the House within the next several weeks.

If you’d like to know who your representative is — or you want to write to your

representative online — visit:

==> http://www.house.gov/writerep/

Nigerian Spam-libs

This site turns the Nigerian fee scam into a popular party game — Adlibs.

To make it work best, include a huge number and unusual locations. A bit silly,

but worth a chuckle…

==> http://scambusters.org/a/spamlibs.html

Wishing you a scam-free week.