’Tis the season for holiday scammers to prey on older adults, and these scammers know a lot of tricks to get people’s money. Scammers often use well-known and respected charity names, or they invent a name that sounds similar to a familiar charity. Some scammers have fixed the technology so the caller ID screen displays the name of a legitimate charity when their call comes in. The four categories that scammers often use with older adults are police and firefighters, sick or needy children, victims of recent disasters, and veterans.
Be aware that an organization will only have the e-mail addresses of people who have previously donated and voluntarily supplied their e-mail addresses to the organization. Unless the e-mail comes from a known and reliable source, do not open attachments and links, because they can contain a computer virus.
So what is the best defense against holiday hoaxes? Always check the authenticity of a charity through Charity Navigator, GuideStar, or the Wise Giving Alliance (operated by the Better Business Bureau). If the solicitation is over the phone, request that paperwork or brochures be sent. If the caller doesn’t have your address already, do not provide it. It is also good to ask for a phone number of the organization. You can then call and find out if a campaign is in progress.
Finally, if the charity checks out to be legitimate, the donation is best made with a personal check. A credit card number or personal information should never be given to a telemarketer.
For more information, go to the AARP website.