As the Russian invasion of Ukraine generates suffering for millions, many in California naturally want to do what they can to support the refugees. But now, scammers are working overtime to try to divert those funds.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises people to research the organization you plan to give to, using sites like Charity Watch or Charity Navigator.
Strat Maloma, associate director of advocacy and community engagement for AARP California, said people should watch out for calls, emails or social-media messages using high-pressure tactics.
“When they ask you to act urgently, immediately, when there’s no time to waste,” Maloma cautioned. “That should really be a red flag – when you’re not given time to do your research, time to think about it.”
Maloma suggested it can be helpful to develop a little script, so you will know how to turn down a persistent solicitor, saying you will have to do some research first, or you have already donated.
The Federal Trade Commission warned many scammers have started asking for payment in cryptocurrency. And Maloma said you should avoid making a donation using payment apps, like Venmo or Zelle.
“If it’s something like sending cash, sending gift cards, wire money,” Maloma outlined. “Those should really be red flags.”
Finally, experts warned some scams are not designed to get you to donate money, but rather to divulge your personal information, so they can steal your identity and run up charges on your accounts.
People who have fallen victim to a scam are encouraged to report it to the FTC or the California Attorney General’s office.