/ 19 May 2015

Five tips for online donors to avoid scammers

Scammers are now using crowdfunding websites
Scammers are now using crowdfunding websites

We have all been following the heartbreaking devastation unfolding in Nepal. Thousands are dead, many more are unaccounted for, and the survivors are enduring tough times with no food or water and limited shelter. Natural disasters like this touch the hearts of millions around the globe. Feeling the urge to help but not being able to, leaves people with the one option that they can do from wherever they happen to be – donate money online to a relief charity.

However, where there are natural disasters, scammers follow. Over the past week there has been a significant stream of emails with devastating photographs of children seemingly looking for their parents in the rubble. 

“By simply clicking on the link below you can donate $5 to help these children,” reads one email. Another follows a similar theme, asking people to “send food parcels and medicine to the Nepal or just donate $15 and we will purchase the medicine on your behalf”.

As more international aid starts to flow into the region, more requests for donation circulate.

However, not all requests for assistance are legitimate and could be the product of scammers taking advantage of people’s goodwill.

In a new twist to the email scam, scammers are using crowdfunding  websites, such as GoFundMe, seemingly to raise money for relief in Nepal. Scammers set up a “project”, complete with Photoshopped images, asking for help and monetary donations.

Tips to avoid donation scams
While what is happening in Nepal is tragic, one needs to be very selective in how and what charity to fund so that your money is put to good use and does not end up in someone’s personal bank account.

Here are five tips on how to avoid being scammed when donating to victims of the Nepal earthquake – or any other charity cause 

  1. Start by heading off to www.give.org. This sites allows you to research the recognised official charities that won’t scam your money.
  2. If you want to deal with a local charity that you know and trust, head over to their website by typing their website address into your web browser (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari etc). It sounds obvious, but there is a reason: don’t click on a link that appears to have come from that organisation because this is easy to fake. If the charity is indeed helping Nepal, then there will be an obvious button or banner placed on the official site to click for more information.
  3. Beware of websites that pop up overnight, such as GiveToNepalVictimsToday dot whatever or NepalDisaster dot something. While some may be legitimate, unless you can research the charity, chances are that it popped up overnight to take advantage of the newsy situation.
  4. A good charity will make it clear what percentage of the money goes to the victims and what percentage is kept to cover administration costs. Beware of charities that boast 100% of the money goes to the victims. While these do exist, most take a cut for administration costs. Also ask if the charity is a “collection point” to collect funds and pass them on to the actual relief charity. If that’s the case, look at the end charity and see if you can rather donate to them directly, cutting out any commission payments.
  5. Never give your credit card details or bank account information to an unsolicited phone caller asking for a donation. There is no way to know if it is legitimate or not. – Gadget.co.za

Liron Segev is also known as The Techie Guy. Read his blog or follow him on Twitter.