Beware of charity scams during season of giving

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The holidays bring out the best in people, and many charities count on end-of-year generosity from donors to meet the needs of those less fortunate. Sadly, scammers know this and prey on unsuspecting consumers who don't do their homework when giving money to charities.

Scammers solicit by phone and email, or post links to fraudulent charities on social media sites with names similar to those of legitimate organizations. In some cases, scammers even pose as legitimate charities, in one variation of the so-called imposter scam.

Western Union and Better Business Bureau launched BBB Scam Stopper to help consumers reduce their chances of becoming a victim of common scams.

"We urge donors to give thoughtfully, and to be wary of scams this holiday season," said Art Taylor, president and CEO of BBB Wise Giving Alliance, "It's important to check out a charity first, and make sure you are giving to a charity that will use your donation wisely."

Here are tips to consider when giving money to charities:

• It's best always to donate to a charity directly after confirming its legitimacy, rather than giving in response to a phone call or by clicking an email link.

•Never send a money transfer to an individual for a charity. Western Union does accept donations for charities, but the money transfer must be sent to the organization, not to an individual.

• Never share banking or credit card information with a person or business you don't actually know.

• Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer.

"Resist rushing. If a charity is legitimate, they'll accept your donation any time," said Shelley Bernhardt, director of consumer protection at Western Union.

For more information visit westernunion.com/stopfraud. To learn more about which charities meet BBB Wise Giving Alliance standards, go to give.org.

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