Experts offer simple advice to avoid holiday charity scams - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Experts offer simple advice to avoid holiday charity scams

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

If you're feeling generous and want to make some tax-deductible donations in the final hours of 2015 or in early 2016, beware of scammers trying to steal your money online or via phone.

Lots of people donate to charities online, but experts warn of criminals who might copy a well-known charity's website and ask for key information, such as your Social Security number.

“If you're asked for any other personal identifiable information, that should be a big red flag that it's probably not information that you want to provide nor are you required to provide under the tax law," said Gregory Dunn, president and CEO of Hawaii’s BBB, a consumer protection organization.

There are some simple ways to determine if a business or charity website is fake.

Honolulu Police Department Capt. John McCarthy, an expert in cyber crime, said, "For example, they'll have ABC.com is a legitimate business. They might put ABC.dcom.  So you're looking at it, you look at the first three letters, think that you're on the right website. You click and next thing you know, you're on the bad site."

Another tip: Hover your cursor over email or donation links and make sure the cyber address link matches the site you're on.

And if a charity or business website has empty logos where photos or graphics have not loaded properly, it could be a fake.

"They'll make it enticing,” said HPD’s McCarthy. “They'll play to your strengths and fears and they make you want to feel good. They get between you and your money."

Experts said it's much safer to use credit cards to donate or purchase online instead of debit cards, which pull money directly out of your bank account.

"Credit cards, you have much greater protection and it's not touching your cash, it's only touching your available credit line," said the BBB’s Dunn.

"The things you should watch out for are if you're solicited directly.  If you get an email from a charity that you've never donated to before or if you get a phone call from a charity that you've never worked with before," Dunn added.

Scammers will also try to pressure you to donate right away to their fake charity.  Remember, a good charity will be around in the new year for you to donate to then, experts said.

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