Americans donated an estimated $292 billion to charity as individuals in 2018. Before you pull out your wallet this holiday season, the South Carolina Department of Revenue and the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs offer these tips to make your giving safe and scam free.

Be wary of solicitations that ask you to pay in prepaid gift or debit cards, wire or bank transfer.

Once in the hands of a scam artist, the money is gone and difficult to trace.

Don’t assume solicitations on social media or crowdfunding sites are legitimate.

Some scammers hijack links to legitimate sites, while others may misappropriate donated funds.

Check out charities before donating.

Scammers create fake charities before the holidays to trick people out of donations. Look out for charities with names that sound like famous charities but are not. Go to the SC Secretary of State’s website to see if the charity is registered. You can also call 1-888-242-7484.

Research charities online using words such as “scam” and “complaint.”

You can also check a charity’s ratings with BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch and Guidestar.

Don’t give out personal information to someone soliciting a donation.

Personal information can be as valuable as cash to a criminal, who may try to convince you to part with credit card or bank account data, phone numbers, addresses, and more.

You can use the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search to see if your donation is tax-deductible.

To report a concern about a charity or to file a scam complaint:

  • File a confidential complaint online with the SC Secretary of State using the Charitable Solicitation Complaint Form
  • Call the SC Secretary of State’s Division of Public Charities at 1-888-242-7484
  • Call SCDCA’s Identity Theft Unit at 1-844-835-5322, or visit sc.gov and click the Identity Theft Unit tab

For more details, visit:

Source: SCDOR and South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs