IRS Warns Consumers of Fake Charitable Scams

The Internal Revenue Service recently issued a consumer alert about possible fake charity scams emerging due to the recent mass-shooting in Orlando, FL, and encouraged taxpayers to seek out recognized charitable groups.

While there has been an enormous wave of support across the country for the victims and families of the Orlando mass-shooting and other tragic events around the world, it is common for scam artists to take advantage of this generosity by impersonating charities to get money or private information from well-meaning taxpayers. Such fraudulent schemes may involve contact by telephone, social media, e-mail or in-person solicitations.

When making donations to any charitable cause, there are a few simple steps taxpayers should take to ensure their hard-earned money goes to legitimate 501(c)(3) organizations:

  • Be sure to donate to recognized charities. Online resources like GuideStar or Charity Navigator provide detailed information about an organization’s charitable status, programs and fiscal responsibility.
  • Be cautious of charities with names similar to nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations.
  • Don’t give out personal financial information — such as Social Security numbers, passwords or credit card and bank account numbers — to anyone who solicits a contribution. Scam artists may use this information to steal a donor’s identity and money.
  • Don’t give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check, credit card or other way that provides documentation of the gift. Always ask for a receipt!
  • Consult IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, available on IRS.gov.  This free booklet describes the tax rules that apply to making tax-deductible donations. Among other things, it also provides complete details on what records to keep.

Unfortunately, bogus websites illegally solicit funds for victims of tragedy. These sites frequently mimic the sites of, or use names similar to, legitimate charities. They may also claim to be affiliated with legitimate charities in order to persuade people to send money or provide personal financial information that can be used to steal identities or financial resources.

Additionally, scammers often send emails that steer recipients to bogus websites that appear to be affiliated with legitimate charitable causes. Taxpayers suspecting they’ve received a fraudulent email should forward it to phishing@irs.gov and delete the message without clicking on any links or downloads.