Just over a week ago, the famed Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris came so very close to destruction. As the devastating fire broke out and raged for hours, people around the world watched helplessly as firefighters did all they could to save the building.
Although the steeple was lost, firefighters (including a firefighting robot) were successful in saving the main part of the 850-year-old structure along with many of the artifacts and pieces of art. Now a lot of people and organizations are doing their part to help in the restoration process, and donations have been pouring in.
With the good also comes the bad. Just like any other disaster or tragedy, all scammers see is a potential payday. And the Federal Trade Commission has a warning so you don’t unwittingly hand your money over to criminals.
Disasters bring out scammers
Here we go again. Like cockroaches coming out of the shadows at night, criminals are always looking to prey on those who just want to offer support after a terrible event.
It could be fly-by-night contractors who want to fix your roof after a hailstorm — after you pay them upfront, of course. It might be a fake crowdfunding account pretending to raise money for someone’s medical bills. Or it could be bad actors looking to cash in after a disaster on a global scale.
Plans to rebuild the Notre Dame are underway, and crooks are ready to accept your donations. The FTC has some tips to make sure your money is going where it’s supposed to.
Watch out when donating money
First up: Research organizations before you donate. Search for online keywords about the organization, using terms like “scam” or “complaint.” If you don’t know where to start, search for phrases like “Notre Dame” and “best charity,” things like that. Then look for reviews and ratings for any results.
Here’s a little-known fact that is well-known among journalists: You can request to see the tax returns of any charitable nonprofit in the U.S. You may request them right from the charity, or you may see them at the IRS’s online database of nonprofit returns.
Ask questions of anyone who wants you to donate, and find out exactly how the money will be used. Again, it all comes down to research.
It’s not just charities. Look out for fundraisers set up on GoFundMe or other crowdfunding sites. Check comments for red flags, and look for details about who gets your donation. If there’s anything suspicious in the fine print, including potential fees, you might consider other options.
Also keep in mind that donations to foreign organizations typically aren’t tax deductible. You can check those details by clicking or tapping here.