Charities often target certain groups of people when soliciting donations. Those groups may include past donors and people who have recently attended charitable fundraisers. Such an approach can be very effective. It should come as no surprise that criminals posing as legitimate organizations tend to target specific groups of people as well.
Anyone can be fooled by a fraudulent charity, but such criminals tend to target seniors more than others. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, seniors often make attractive targets to con artists because seniors are most likely to have substantial savings, own their homes and/or have excellent credit. In addition, the FBI notes that elderly victims of fraud and other crimes are less likely to report those crimes out of fear that their families may feel they are no longer able to take care of themselves or manage their own finances.
These factors make seniors especially attractive and vulnerable to con artists, particularly those who prey on well-intentioned men and women by posing as fake charities. But there are steps seniors can take to protect themselves from fraud.
* Be skeptical of solicitors. Many con artists will indicate that persons have given to the charity in the past, hoping that prospective victims simply won't remember if that claim is valid or not. If a solicitor or appeal letter claims that you donated in the past, don't simply take it at face value, especially if you don't recall making such a donation. Get specific information about alleged past donations, checking that information against your own bank records and receipts. Many donors claim donations as deductions on their tax returns, which also can be used to verify or debunk solicitors' claims. Though not all solicitors claiming a past history of donations are dishonest, this is one way that criminals attempt to create a rapport with potential victims, so such claims should be verified before making any donations.
* Don't feel obligated to reciprocate a gift with a donation. Many charities send gifts, be it mailing labels or holiday cards, to prospective donors as a token of appreciation for past donations and as a way of encouraging future donations. Con artists are fully aware of this tactic and may try to imitate it in an attempt to defraud potential victims. No matter if the people behind those mailing labels or holiday ornaments are legitimate charities or con artists, you should not feel compelled to reciprocate a free gift with a financial donation.
* Beware of solicitors pressuring you to donate. Reputable charities should not be on the verge of shut down if you fail to make a donation, so such organizations never pressure prospective donors into making donations. If a solicitor is pressuring you into making a donation over the phone or in person, chances are strong that this person is not representing a reputable charity. In such instances, hang up the phone or, if the solicitor is on your property, politely close the door, ask the solicitor to leave your property and contact the local authorities.
* Send donations directly to the charity after independently confirming their address. When making charitable donations, those donations should never be given directly to solicitors. Donations should only be made after you have independently confirmed the charity's address and mailed straight to the organization. Never make a cash donation, as cash provides no paper trail should you want to deduct your donation or should you learn that you were victimized by a con artist posing as a representative of a reputable charity.
* Request personal information not be shared. Upon receiving a charitable donation, many charities share their donors' contact information with other charities. Such actions are legal as long as no sensitive information is shared. But many donors would prefer their contact information not be shared so they don't find themselves being inundated with solicitations from other charities. Donors can ask to opt out of having their personal information shared upon making a donation. This is especially important for seniors living on fixed incomes who simply cannot afford to support many causes no matter how compelling those causes are.