The holiday season is upon us again. For some of us that means cookies are baked, presents are bought, or we spend time reflecting on the past year. For many others, this time of the year is challenging, financially and emotionally. This year, as unemployment and poverty soar due to COVID-19, the need for help is greater than ever.
Historically, anywhere from 30-40% of all charitable donations are made in the last quarter of the year, with roughly 12% of all giving occurring in the last three days of December. Many people rely on the generosity of others during the holiday season and if you’re giving financially this year it’s important to do so safely.
With seemingly endless choices of where to donate online, we know it’s easy to stumble into a charity scam. As experts in consumer cyber safety, here are four ways to ensure your donation goes to where you want it to while keeping your information and identity safe:
- Research first. If you know the charity or cause you’d like to give to, start at a site dedicated to researching and rating charities. These include CharityWatch, GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and give.org. You can also enter the name of the charity you’re considering with “review” or “scam” into your internet browser’s search engine to help verify that your donation will actually go to those in need.
- Be on the look-out for common scammer tricks. Scammers employ a number of malicious tactics which can include: creating a fake organization name that sounds like a reputable charity but has a slightly different spelling, calling from a blocked number or ambiguous location (e.g., “United States”), or making vague and sentimental claims about where your donation will be used without providing specifics.
- Do not click. Email is a common channel for nonprofits to ask you for continued support. Even though email messages you receive from a charity you have supported in the past are likely legitimate, never click on a link in an email. Instead, go directly to the organization’s website and donate there.
- Pay by credit card. Never donate with cash, gift cards, or money wires. If a ‘charity’ is asking you to pay that way, it’s likely you’re being scammed. We discourage paying by check because the information listed on most checks (an account holder's name, their account number, and routing number) enables fraud that involves the removal of additional funds directly from the checking account. Paying by credit card helps provide a paper trail and adds a layer of protection should you need to dispute a charge.
As the year closes, it’s a good time to review your own digital safety practices. Set yourself a reminder to check that your anti-virus software is up-to-date on your laptop and mobile devices, your online and social media activity is kept private, and your video game accounts are protected. Using the latest products, like Norton 360, is an effective way to help protect your data.
We at NortonLifeLock wish you the safest and happiest of holidays!
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