Tips & Advice

Avoid falling for a charity scam now

Presented by Larry Larsen, Director of Cyber Security

One of the things that brought me here to Apple was the opportunity to work with great people doing great things. Every day I see and hear stories from you, our members, on how we help improve lives and fulfill dreams.

Traditionally autumn kicks off the season of giving, of helping others in need, and I believe it's part of human nature to want to help. Many well-established organizations sponsor campaigns such as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and American Diabetes Month in November; these are important efforts to raise public consciousness on issues and much-needed funding to help find cures.

Sadly there are people out there who think nothing of selfishly exploiting these campaigns. They craft their own spoof operations to fund their personal criminal activities, posing as organized charities or informal "crowd-funded" efforts to support a fictitious group with an urgent need. They share sad stories and heartbreaking photos of children in poverty, troubled veterans and abused animals to entice you to contribute your money and ease their alleged needs.

The pitch from these crooks can be by telephone, email or even printed letter, but it usually includes a request for a money transfer (like Western Union) or credit card number, and a lot of your personal information. None of your contribution goes to anything other than the scammer's pockets, and in most cases your information is sold to other scammers, who add you to their list of targets.

In the case of money transfers, they are very hard to trace and impossible to rescind. At least with a credit card, the provider offers fraud protection and will reimburse you. No legitimate charity will ever ask for a money order for a contribution; in fact, it's a good idea to check with the Federal Trade Commission if you receive a request from an unfamiliar charitable organization. Dedicated to keeping you safe from fraudulent charities, the FTC website offers very valuable information on the subject.

The nonprofit organization ScamAwareness.org also offers a lot of good information on charity fraud and other commonplace scams, including what to watch for and how to get help if you fall victim.

There are a lot of organizations out there, doing a lot of great work. Be cautious before making a donation to ensure your contribution is going to a legitimate charity, and you'll do great work too!