Troubleshooters: 4 steps to avoid donating to fake charities

Peoria, Ill. (HOI) They call it the season of giving. In the days leading up to Christmas, you may be more inclined to donate money to charity. But how do you know your money is being used the way it should be?

The Better Business Bureau says the holiday season is a common time for bad or fake charities to flare up, but they have reports in the BBB Wise Giving Guide to help you avoid them.

“The information that’s contained in those reports lets you know what a charity does with those dollars that they’re asking you to donate. Basically, are they taking putting that money directly to the cause they’re representing or maybe going somewhere in someone’s pocket,” said Jessica Tharp, CEO and President of the Better Business Bureau.

Tharp says there are red flags to look for in spotting a fake charity.

“Most commonly around the holidays we see there are scam charities that popup. They play themselves off to be very similarly named to legitimate organizations to catch you off guard,” said Tharp.

Some other signs include pressure to donate immediately. Tharp says many fraudulent groups will do anything to talk you into donating right now. She says real, credible charities will be willing to send you information and give you as much time as you need.

There are four steps you can take to verify a charity before handing over cash.

Step 1: Verify they are a registered 501(c)(3) organization by asking their employer identification number, or EIN. If they don’t know, that’s a bad sign.

Step 2: What are the organization’s missions, goals and history? If they struggle to answer the questions right away, step away and consider giving elsewhere.

Step 3: Research it! Seek out the nonprofit’s website and make sure they have the EIN number there. According to, major disasters such as hurricanes, lead people to make fake websites claiming to be a charity.

Step 4: Use Charity Navigator to search high-rated charities, or BBB’s Wise Giving Guide.

“It’s a magazine that we produce, it’s alphabetical of organizations that we have asked to be evaluated by the Better Business Bureau in accordance to our 20 standards of trust,” said Tharp.

In the Wise Giving Guide you can see a full breakdown of their standards for charity accountability, plus the organizations that did and did not meet them.


***Local charities shown in this video lcip ARE accredited through the BBB. That includes the Salvation Army, Susan G. Komen, Alzheimer’s Association, Habitat for Humanity and the American Cancer Society.*** and are resources for finding and reporting charities.

Jenise Rebholz

Jenise Rebholz

Evening Anchor, Heart of Illinois ABC @JeniseRebholzTV

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