How to Spot Fake Donation Scams

Scammers are taking advantage of the current climate to create fake accounts and take your money.

How to help

We’re living in a time of great upheaval, change, and unrest. You want to donate your money to a good cause, but you don’t want to get scammed in the process. What can you do? Fortunately, there are many organizations that are on your side and provide helpful information. Read on to learn how you can spot fake donation scams and still make a difference. In the meantime, here’s how charities are spending your money.

What to watch out for

In this day and age, as people change and technology becomes more advanced, so too does the level and sophistication of online scams. Recently, after the death of Minnesota man George Floyd while in police custody, many people have been looking for organizations and non-profits to send their money to including the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a non-profit that raises money to pay criminal bail and immigration bonds for those who do not have the funds to do so. However, according to the Minnesota Freedom Fund’s Twitter account, scammers have created a fake Minnesota Freedom Fund Venmo account, and people were tricked into giving the fraudulent account money instead of sending money to the authentic Minnesota Freedom Fund.

Scams don’t only happen out of the office and in your spare time—they can happen in the guise of work, too. If you’ve been invited to a Zoom meeting with HR, you might be getting scammed.

What you should never do

While most organizations are there to help, there are those fraudulent accounts that don’t want what’s best for you. According to AARP, you should never give strangers personal and financial information, including anything related to your bank account or your Social Security number, as this can lead to identity theft. You should never donate via text to a phone number you don’t recognize and don’t click on any links in emails that seem fraudulent or social media accounts as this could lead to malware.

As a general rule of thumb, also according to AARP, donating using credit cards and checks is safer than donating by cash, and always check whether donation websites are legitimate, which also include crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe. During times of protest, scammers are also using the coronavirus to steal your information.

How to donate safely

Thankfully, there are great resources that can help you donate your money safely. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends doing your research online before you donate any money and to consider how you pay. Both the FTC and AARP recommend checking sites like Charity Navigator, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, and CharityWatch to ensure your charity is rated. AARP recommends you keep a list of each place you’ve sent money to and regularly check your credit card account to make sure you were charged appropriately. With these tactics in place, you’ll hopefully be more well-informed before the next time you donate your money. Next, make sure you know these 10 online scams you need to be aware of—and how to avoid them.

For more on this important issue, see our guide to the Fight Against Racism.

Madeline Wahl
Madeline Wahl is a former associate editor and writer at whose work has appeared on HuffPost, Red Magazine, McSweeney's, Pink Pangea, The Mighty, Golf Channel and Yahoo Lifestyle, among others. More of her writing can be found on her website,