How Do I Know if an Online Charity Is Legit?

How can they even think of doing it? Easy. They’re criminals. They have no conscience. They do this for a living. As a fund recovery firm with clients throughout the world, we at MyChargeBack have heard about more types of scams than we can probably count. Fake charities are particularly sinister because they play not on your interest in making a quick buck but upon your sympathy for the downtrodden.

Floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, mass shootings. Whatever the tragedy may be, the natural human reaction is to sympathize with the victims and reach out to help them.  Which is why immediately after events like these take place, various humanitarian organizations will rush to the scene to be of assistance. For the rest of us glued to our televisions, the maximum we can do is donate much needed money to pay for the good work that they do and enable the victims to begin to rebuild their shattered lives.

So we’ll go online and see if there is a dedicated Red Cross site dealing with the issue. Or a church site. Or a local site. We click, see the urgent appeals for funds, see the horrific photos taken at the scene, and then fill in our credit card details to make a donation.

You May Never Know You Were Scammed

We’re not alone, of course, thousands or even tens of thousands have done the same over the same site. What we don’t know — and may never even find out — is that there’s a good chance we’ve been scammed. In 2005, for example, following Hurricane Katrina, the Red Cross asked the FBI to investigate 15 such phony lookalike websites. One fake Salvation Army website alone collected almost $50,000 in donations.

Real Charities vs. Fake Charities: Can You Tell the Difference?

Hurricane Katrina, thankfully, of course, was a one-time event. Charity scammers are also in it for the long-haul. The American Cancer Society is a long-established, worthy cause. The Cancer Fund of America is not. The American Diabetes Association is a long-established, worthy cause, but the Defeat Diabetes Foundation is not. The American Heart Association is a long-established, worthy cause, but Heart Support for America is not. Save the Children is a long-established, worthy cause, but Find the Children is not.

Throwing Money Down the Well

In most cases, it’s not easy to tell the difference between real charities and problematic ones. Scammers invest a lot of time and energy into disguising their scams precisely in order to trip you up. Take, for example, the harmless-sounding Wishing Well Foundation USA.

Headquartered in Louisiana and founded by a husband and wife in 1995 or 1996 (depending on the source), the Wishing Well Foundation USA claims to make the last wishes of terminally ill children come true. How can you not sympathize with its goals? It turns out that Wishing Well raised $3.5 million between 1996 and 1997 but only spent $45,214 (or 1% of those contributions), on those children. The rest went to overhead, especially for telemarketer salaries.

What Can You Do

If you’ve donated money to a charity scam, contact MyChargeBack for a free consultation to determine if there’s a way to retrieve your money.  We’re an international financial services firm that has assisted clients in over a hundred countries get back millions of dollars lost to scams of all types. And if you’re not sure if a certain charity is a scam or not, ask us. We’ll run it down for you so that you don’t make a mistake.