Is the holiday season indeed “the most wonderful time of the year”? One could make a strong argument.
However, for every gift we receive there are 10 or so emails asking us to give to a cause. Whether online or via snail mail, charitable organizations capitalize on the season’s tax-reducing giving benefits.
No one can blame these organizations — it’s people like me who help their donors (YOU) realize that their (your) tax bill can be reduced, and giving can be amplified as such. Many of these orgs are doing great things.
But there are some out there who do send year-end appeals with mail-icious intent. (See what I did there?)
Yet if you know a few key signs to look for, Birmingham scam artists don’t stand a chance. But they can be tricky!
Here’s how to tell…
How Birmingham Taxpayers Can Avoid Fake Charities
“To do more for the world than the world does for you — that is success.” -Henry Ford
An unfortunate reality: fake charities abound in this country. Many individuals set up nonprofits for the sake of financial gain — and some are really good at the disguise. Charity Navigator is a simple online tool to look up the validity of various charities (or lack thereof).
The Fraud Advisory Panel has a plethora of resources for you to thumb through should you wish to learn more.
If you come across a charity that you know is a scam, the IRS recommends the following:
- Don’t reply.
- Don’t open attachments. They might carry malware that will affect your computer or phone.
- Don’t click any links. (If you have in the recent past, visit IRS identity protection for further steps to take.)
- Forward the scam email, preferably with its full headers (to, from, subject, etc.), to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Delete the original email.
Seek Real Causes to Support
The nature of my thoughts today make it sound like you should always be skeptical. And that’s true … to an extent.
Like I said earlier, there are MANY out there who are doing great work through legit nonprofits. That’s why it’s a shame this season gets sullied by a bunch of people seeking money for illegitimate reasons. But my advice to you is to dive personally into a nonprofit or two throughout the year. Don’t let November or December roll around, only for you to give money to an organization you don’t know much about.
Attend an event, ask your close friends and make your support a year-long process.
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” – John Bunyan
So consider giving this holiday season.
Randall M. Hancock CPA, PC