The Internal Revenue Service is warning taxpayers for the 2015 filing season about phony charitable organizations. There has been an increase in illegal scams of organizations pretending to be legitimate organizations that ask for contributions from unsuspecting taxpayers. The IRS advises that taxpayers take a few minutes to research the charitable organization to make sure their hard-earned money goes to a legitimate eligible charity.
Another recent type of abuse or fraud involves scams that occur after a significant natural disaster. Following major disasters, it is common for scam artists to impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers. Scam artists can use a variety of tactics. Some scammers operate fake charities and contact people by telephone or email to solicit money or financial information. They may even directly contact disaster victims and claim to be working for the IRS to help the victims file casualty loss claims and get tax returns. Other scammers may try to get personal financial information or Social Security numbers that can be used to steal the victims' identities or financial resources. Also, phony websites may solicit funds for disaster victims.
The IRS offers these three tips to taxpayers making charitable donations:
Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. IRS.gov has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, which allows people to find legitimate, qualified charities to which donations may be tax-deductible.
Don't give out personal financial information, such as Social Security numbers or passwords, to anyone who solicits a contribution from you. Scam artists may use this information to steal your identity and money. People use credit card numbers to make legitimate donations but please be very careful when you are speaking with anyone who called you.
Don't give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the gift.