InvestigatorsMatter for Mallory


"They just pocketed all the money that was given to them" Scammers are soliciting donations this holiday season

12 Scams of Christmas
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Posted at 6:00 AM, Dec 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-10 06:28:08-05

BALTIMORE — It’s the season of giving and scammers want to take advantage of your generosity.

A Maryland woman said someone knocked on her door seeking money for boxes to send to disabled veterans suffering from PTSD. He had a business card and a story, so she gave him $40.

“People used, in this case, an old campaign. They found the flyers, found the information, went door-to-door, and you look at it and you’re like this is legitimate, I’m familiar with this nonprofit, this organization, and they just pocketed all the money that was given to them,” said Angie Barnett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving greater Maryland.

The woman found the real campaign online. It ended in 2018.

“Use a credit card so you can dispute the charges if you find the funds are in the wrong hands,” Barnett said.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers reported losing $1.6 billion to charity fraud so far this year. The median amount lost is around $1,000.

“A bad guy will take a cause 'du jour' and build something around donating to firemen, or police, or First Amendment rights or something along those lines and just robocall, or try to get as many people as they can on the line,” said Supervisory Special Agent Keith Custer with the FBI Baltimore field office.

Charity scammers will say there’s an urgent need and rush consumers into giving over the phone. Even if it’s a name you know, Barnett said you’re better off donating online or in-person. Charities sometimes use paid fundraisers that keep a portion of the donation as a fee.

“When you are giving to anything, please do the research to make sure you’re not being misled, misdirected, you can find legitimate information,” Barnett said.

Websites like Charity Navigator, Guidestar, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance help consumers research charities. They include information on the organization’s cause, amount spent on salaries, fundraising efforts, and the percentage of contributions spent on program expenses.

And there’s an added incentive to give this year. Taxpayers who take the standard tax deduction are able to claim a limited deduction for up to $300 in charitable contributions for individuals and $600 for married couples.