Look out for holiday scams; particularly those aimed at the elderly

‘Tis the season to give. But unfortunately, there are those who see it as the season of taking.

During the holidays, it’s likely you’ll see an increase in requests from charitable organizations, but be aware that this is also a busy time for scam artists. Scammers often use soundalike names of well-known and respected charities. They may also invent ones which purport to help with “hot-button” causes that target older donors in particular, such as police and firefighters, sick or needy children, victims of natural disasters and veterans.

But there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of fraud. First of all, if you receive requests from charities you are unfamiliar with, do your homework. Research the charity and make sure the request is legitimate. You can look up the charity’s home office and call them to be sure the request is real. If you can’t find any information about the charity, don’t make a contribution and don’t share your personal information with anyone representing it.

If you receive a solicitation by e-mail, be especially careful, and don’t click on any links embedded in the e-mail.

If someone calls you for support of a certain charity, ask them to send you the paperwork in the mail in advance before agreeing to make any donation. Make sure to ask for their contact information. That way you can follow up and do more detective work. You can contact the Better Business Bureau in the town where the charity is located to verify it.

To keep it safe, only contribute to those charities you know and trust. If you have any doubts about the charity, even if it’s just a bad feeling, don’t make a donation. Never make a donation or give your personal information to anyone over the phone.

If a person calls representing a charity and he or she is unwilling to mail you information about the cause or charity, consider it a big red flag. A reputable company will be more than willing to do this; scammers will not.

So enjoy your holiday season, and make sure your money goes where you want it to go.

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