Clients Beware: Bad Apples and Red Flags

With GivingTuesday right around the corner, and wildfire relief efforts still going strong, many of your clients are likely to make an “in the moment” decision to give to a charity. That’s terrific, and you’ll be doing them a big favor if you offer a gentle reminder that, unfortunately, there are a few bad actors in every industry–even in philanthropy.
Shocking and cautionary tales abound. For example, consistent with many scammers’ attempts to take advantage of donors’ desire to support first responders, a telemarketing charity managed to grab more than $100 million over a four-year period intended by donors to support law enforcement. This scam involved callers impersonating police officers.

On the positive side, the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general are doubling down on pursuing the so-called charities’ fundraisers. Recently, for instance, Oregon’s Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum noted that, while “kind and generous Oregonians are stepping up” to help those affected by the fires, nevertheless there are those “who will try to prosper off any disaster.”

Here are three red flags to share with your clients as giving season approaches:

  • Too much pressure is too much pressure.  Scammers are known for pushing hard for a rush decision to make a donation. Leading questions are another technique (“Can we count on you for your support?” “What credit card would you like to use tonight?”).
  • Thanks but no thanks.  Another popular deception is for a scammer to open the conversation with a thank you…for a gift you never made. Don’t second guess yourself; if you don’t think you made a donation, you probably didn’t. Charitable giving is both an emotional and transactional decision, and that means it tends to stick in your memory.
  • Deja vu–or not so much?  Watch out if the charity sounds familiar but you still can’t place it. Scammers frequently create legitimate-sounding names for their fake charities that mimic well-known organizations. Don’t fall for it.