Better Business Bureau, On May 31st, Memorial Day, we are reminded of those who gave their lives while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Some of us will seek to honor and respect those who gave the ultimate sacrifice by donating to charities that address a variety of issues and needs facing veterans, military service members and/or their families. BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following advice to help donors make wise giving decisions to such organizations:
Avoid Mistaken Identity. Some veterans charities include the same words in different order or slightly different form. So, be alert and make sure the organization you are considering is the one you want to support.
Find Out What They Do. Don’t assume what the veterans organization does based on their name alone. Look for a clear description of the organization’s programs in its appeals and on its website.
Be Careful with Phone Appeals. If not managed properly, some telemarketing campaigns for veterans organizations can be an expensive way to raise funds with very little going to the organization. If called, do not hesitate to ask for written information or visit the group’s website to find out about its programs and finances before making a giving decision.
Watch Out for Excessive Pressure. Don’t be pressured to make an immediate on-the-spot donation to a veterans organization. Charities should welcome your gift whenever you want to send it.
Ask How Donated Items Will Be Used. Find out how the charity benefits from the collection and resale of used clothing and other in-kind gifts. Sometimes the charity receives only a small portion of the resale price of the item or may have a contractual arrangement to get a flat fee for every household pick-up, no matter what the contents.
Check Give.org. In addition to charity reports on BBB’s Give.org, check with your state government’s charity registration agency, usually a division of either the Attorney General’s office or Secretary of State’s office.
Protecting Yourself from Check Fraud
Check fraud is evolving and fake check scams are becoming increasingly more common. Scammers will send a check for you to deposit and then ask you to send a portion of it back or to someone else, often in the form of gift cards, wire transfers, or even peer-to-peer payment apps – which are basically untraceable. Here are a few tactics they use:
Fake COVID-19 Stimulus Checks – Scammers impersonate the IRS by sending checks that look like legitimate economic-impact payments, then they contact you claiming you were overpaid and need to send money.
Phony Job Offers – These can take the form of being a Mystery Shopper, Personal Assistant, or even using your car to advertise. Scammers will send a fake check and instruct you to use it to buy gift cards, money orders, or pay third-party vendors for services. Once you follow their instructions, they disappear. It’s common for this type of scam to target college students by posing as school representatives via email.
Overpayments – If you’re selling an item, these scammers will pose as buyers. They will write you a fake check for your item, but it will be for over the amount you agreed on. They’ll play it off as a mistake then ask you to send back the difference.
Prizes and Lotteries – “Congratulations, you won!” These scammers will send you a fake prize check that requires you to send back a processing or other fee.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Check Fraud
Store your checks securely – Keep your checks and bank documents in a secure location. Never leave them in your car, even if it’s locked. Dispose of old documents properly – fraudsters are known to dumpster dive to steal these important documents. Be leary of entering your account routing and account numbers on websites you do not know and trust.
Report missing checks immediately – If you notice that any of your blank checks, canceled checks, or checks made out to you unexpectedly go missing, tell the bank immediately. This could be a sign that they’ve been stolen, and the bank can take proactive steps to safeguard your account and money.
If someone sends you a check and asks you to send money, don’t do it. – No matter what their story is, it’s likely a fake check scam.
Don’t accept checks that include an overpayment – If you’re selling an item, never accept a check that’s written for more than you agreed on.
Be wary of unsolicited emails and mail – Scammers use these methods to lure victims. If you receive something suspicious or from someone you don’t know, don’t reply, follow any instructions or click on any links.
Mailing a Check? Take Precautions – Limit the chances for a scammer to get a hold of an unaccompanied check. Never mail a check from an unlocked mailbox, take it to the post office instead. Always write the person or business you’re sending the check to on the payee line, do not mail a check payable to cash. You can also donate online with most nonprofits. At Wounded Warriors Family Support, you can securely pay using your checking account at donate.wwfs.org.
Don’t Count on a “Cleared” check: Keep in mind that just because the money is available in your account to use, doesn’t mean the check was good.
If You’re the Victim of Check Fraud – Report it!
Don’t be embarrassed to report check fraud. Your report can help catch criminals and help others avoid falling victim to their crimes! Once you realize what’s happened, notify local law enforcement and the bank immediately.
After you do that, here are several other places you can make a report:
- Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov
- State and Local consumer protection agencies or your state attorney general
- United States Postal Inspection Service at uspis.gov/report for frauds conducted using the mail.
- FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov for frauds conducted over the internet.
While spotting and stopping check fraud can be difficult at times, safeguarding your checks and remaining skeptical if someone offers you a check can help protect you from scammers.