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Beware Grinches After Your Charity Donations

December 13, 2010

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The season for charitable giving is now in high gear, which also means watching out for 'grinches' in the form of scammers who want your donation dollars. Pennsylvanians who spend time on the computer may already be familiar with those fake messages that appear to be from a bank, but are really a "phishing" scheme aimed at your wallet.

Steve Bernas with the Better Business Bureau says that at this time of the year consumers also need to watch out for requests that, at first glance, appear to be from nonprofit groups.

"They have to really look closely at the name itself, and see if they're similar to a well-known charity or not, or if they're just trying to make that quick hit."

Bernas suggests doing a Google search on the name of the purported charity, followed by the word "scam" to quickly find out if others have been taken in.

If you're not so Web-savvy or if they're calling you, Bernas says you can ask for printed material by mail.

"A scam company or a non-reputable organization or 'charity' will move on to the next victim. They're not going to send you something in writing."

If you're ordering items online or by mail, Bernas suggests checking out the company's refund policy, and making sure that you get a promise to deliver on time.

"By federal law, if they don't have a date they promise you to ship the item, they have 30 days to ship the product. So, that's going to be way beyond Christmas."

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams says scammers can steal not only your money, but also your identity, depending on the kind of information you share. The latter problem, identity theft, he says, can take from 18 months to three years to straighten out.

You can check out charities at www.bbb.org

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA