Charity Frauds– what is it and how you can protect yourself

2 Feb 2022

Curtain Hug

‘Dānena bhūtāni vashībhavanti dānena vairānyapi yānti nāšam| paro’pi bandhutvamupaiti dānairdana hi sarvavyasanāni hanti’
Charity can subdue any creature, charity can eliminate enemies and make them allies. Charity is indeed the cure for all bad things…

In India, we all grow up with adages and sayings from ancient times. Most of them highlight how giving to the needy is the ultimate way to reach salvation. Irrespective of our religion, caste, creed, status, we are united when it comes to helping the needy. Especially when some calamity strikes.
Earthquakes, floods, famines, coronavirus, fires, etc. become seasons of charity bloom. It also serves as a season when fraudulent charities pop up. In general too, if you wish to support a cause you hold dear, one google search gives you thousands of choices to choose from. Out of these, hardly a few tens or twenties would be genuine. In fact, according to a report by Delhi HighCourt, a bench headed by Justice Pradeep Nandrajog, “99% of the existing NGOs are fraud and simply money making devices”
Fraudsters do not discriminate among rich and poor. This puts genuine, trustworthy institutions also at risk. One can never predict who gets scammed through this.
While there is no prototype for fraud, the principle is pretty simple. Fake charities try to take advantage of your generosity and compassion for others in need. Scammers will steal your money by posing as a genuine charity. Not only do these scams cost you money, but they also divert much needed donations away from legitimate charities and causes. Scammers will majorly appeal to your emotional side, posing as ill children, or relatives of someone severely affected and in need.
Common ways of charity scams
Impersonating Legitimate Organisations: using names and websites similar to trustworthy, legitimate organizations.
Person-in-need Scams: Scamsters pose as people in need or relatives of people in need ask you to help pay for their treatments, etc.
Testing, vaccines, and treatment scams: In the Covid situation, there is an increase in scams that pose as organizations working on ‘miracle cure’, ‘vaccines’ or providing treatments for some community of people.

The Federal Trade Commission spells out four warning signs that tell us if the organization is a scam or not.
Scammers PRETEND to be from an organization you know:
The names, websites, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. sound very legitimate, often similar to organizations that you might be familiar with. They might be posing as the organization itself, or something similar to it. For example, Kidwish is a fake charity that came up to impersonate the Make-A-Wish Foundation that helped fulfill the wishes of children with a terminal illness.

Scammers say there’s a PROBLEM or a PRIZE:
There is always some sort of conflict that requires your attention. It could be as simple as a check bounce or account suspension, or as complex as some family or village affected by disaster. Scammers give out very appealing deals to lure you out. They make the case as sympathetic as possible. They might also have an end prize if you donate a particular amount.
Scammers PRESSURE you to act immediately:
Scammers want you to act immediately. They want you to act before you can think rationally. Usually, they give out a deadline in three hours, or thirty minutes or paint a picture where the needy die if they don’t get treatment in a particular period. Everything happens very fast and before you can check up on their legitimate story.
Scammers tell you to PAY in a specific way.:
The majority of charity frauds want you to pay in a particular way. They might want you to give out personal information like date of birth, credit card credentials, email addresses, etc. They would want you to pay through wire transfers or gift cards.

Ways to protect yourself:-
Do a google search of the organizations that are coming to you with an offer.
Do Not click on the link sent to you, it could lead to cyberattacks much easily. Always search the organization’s name and find if it has any legitimate website
Check the URL. Most legitimate organizations have website URLs that end in ‘.org’, ‘.gov.in’, ‘.gov.uk’, ‘.org.in’. If it ends in ‘.com’ then take it as a warning sign.
Do Not Pay With Wire transfer. Any organization asking you to pay through anything other than a credit card is fraudulent and needs to be checked out.
Block texts, messages, calls, etc. from numbers that you do not recognize. Use apps like Truecaller to find out if the number has any scam reports.
Do not provide personal information. Organizations asking for too much information from you could be fraudulent and use your information to hack into your bank accounts and steal your money.
Ask for license or government recognition. Whether you are approached online, through text messages, calls, or on the streets, always ask to see certification of their organizations. If they are unable to reproduce these things, that is your warning call. In case they do produce a license or certification, make sure you give that thorough research.
Ask Questions. Ask as many questions as possible. Do not take any information as legitimate. Make sure you have so much information about the organization that you can vouch for their credibility.
Consult someone you trust. Do not act out yourself. Talk to people you trust, your elders, your teachers, or your mentors, etc. Make sure the people around you know about this organization and vouch for their credibility.
Secure your Devices. Install anti-virus and cybersecurity software on your devices to ensure you do not get scams or suspicious email sites, messages, calls, etc.