Identity Theft

Think Pink? Beware of Breast Cancer Charity Scams

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October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, time for that annual flood of pink-colored reminders to support a cure for the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among women.

It’s also time for a tsunami of “pinkwashing” — bogus charities and fraudulent fundraising through the sale of ribbons and other hued merchandise that promise to benefit breast cancer research.

“It’s unfortunate that there are bad guys out there who prey on our goodwill,” said Victor Searcy, director of fraud operations at IDentity Theft 911. “It’s important for consumers to be vigilant so that their donations get to the right source and make a difference.”

Along with many legitimate efforts are scammers who simply choose an authentic-sounding name or misrepresent themselves as being part of recognized groups to collect funds online, by telephone or in person.

There are “legitimate” organizations calling themselves charities but actually passing on precious few funds to the actual cause. Five breast cancer-related groups are among America’s Worst Charities, named following a yearlong investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and Center for Investigative Reporting.

And because that familiar pink ribbon is not regulated by an agency, notes the Better Business Bureau, its use doesn’t necessarily mean it is linked to breast cancer or other charities.

Some tips to donate — to any cause — with less risk of deception:

  • Don’t give cash. Unless fundraising efforts are part of organized activities – think a booth at a “Run for the Cure” race — your safest bet is to write a check directly to a group participating in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
  • Assume unsolicited email charity requests are scams, unless you previously donated to that organization and already provided your email address. (And don’t click on attached links; they might be bait to unleash a computer virus.)
  • Never provide a credit card or bank account number unless you initiate the phone call. Although legitimate charities solicit by phone, scammers can “spoof” your Caller ID to falsely display names and numbers from recognized organizations. Beware of callers who refuse to mail you material — instead pressuring for an over-the-phone donation.
  • Door-to-door solicitors should have “leave behind” materials that you can authenticate — including self-addressed envelopes for mailing checks. Overall, solicitations you receive through the mail are least likely to be scams. Fraudsters don’t like to pay for postage.
  • When doing online searches, type website addresses yourself; don’t rely on links that may appear on search engine results. Learn who owns that domain name at www.WhoIs.net.
  • Read “pink” product labels or related material, which should disclose a charity name and the amount of sale benefiting the charity.
  • Vet charities — and where donations really should be sent — before donating. Check names and reputations at the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator or GuideStar. Many experts encourage giving to groups that spend 25% or less of all donations on fundraising and administrative costs.

This post originally appeared on IdentityTheft911.

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Image: iStock

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