How to Spot and Avoid Scam Donations on Websites

Computer pointer hand pointing to written word DONATE

muharrem/Getty Images

There is no lower form of life than the person who takes advantage of human tragedies in order to scam people out of their money. Generous victims who think they are giving money to a good cause end up getting fleeced of their cash.

Not only does this hurt the people who really need the funding, it also makes the person who donated less likely to do so in the future for fear of it happening again.

Don't Click Links in Unsolicited Emails

Scammers often send out spam emails eliciting money. The emails will claim to be from legitimate charities but the links lead to scam-related donation sites that they have created, or phishing sites intended to harvest your personal information.

If you think an email is suspicious, don't visit any of the links in it and definitely don't open up any attachments in an unsolicited email, no matter how innocent they appear because they could be malware in disguise.

Be Leery of Opportunistic Websites

Scammers will take advantage of tragedies and register domain names that sound like legitimate causes. One of the more famous examples is the original which was reportedly a scam site (the domain has since changed hands).

Find the Real Charity's Main Website

The best way to donate to a charity is by going directly to the charity's home page and proceeding from there. Avoid domains that may not be legitimate. Research any suspicious website to see who owns it.

Always remember: don't click a link in an unsolicited email, even if it claims to be from the real charity. The email might redirect you to a very convincing fake website. It's always best to visit the site directly rather than through a link provided by some unknown third-party.

Beware of Phishing Scams

Some phishers may try to use fake donation sites in order to get more than just your donation. A charity is not going to need your Social Security Number or your birthdate in order for you to make a donation. Anyone that asks for this kind of information is probably a phishing scammer looking for the information needed to steal your identity.

Check the Better Business Bureau Website

The Better Business Bureau has established a website called that vets charities to help determine the legitimacy of a charity.'s charity "Accreditation" process looks at 20 different factors such as Board Compensation, Charity Effectiveness, Program Expenses, etc. If a charity passes the test, it receives a BBB "Accredited Charity" seal of approval, providing donors with some fairly reasonable assurance that the charity is on the up and up.

This site should be one of your very first visits when you want to check out a charity before making a donation.