How to Avoid Scams and Still Help Others this Holiday Season

ADSC_0868s the holidays approach, more people share their aloha by donating to nonprofit organizations in the community. This is a beautiful gesture that can help struggling individuals and families get back on the road toward self-sufficiency.

However, during this time of year there can be an uptick in scams by people trying to take advantage of your aloha. Scam artists ramp up their attempts by creating fake charity names to entice donors into giving them money. Fraudsters may even try to falsely represent real nonprofit organizations in person, on the phone or through a fake website so they can get your credit or debit card details.

If you are contacted by someone requesting your support, always ask for the person’s name and phone number. Find out which organization they represent and why they are contacting you. Don’t forget to ask them how your donation will be used.

If it is a legitimate nonprofit organization, they will be glad to provide you with written materials, website and contact information or other documents you may require to better educate yourself about their mission and who they serve. You may even be invited to tour their offices so you can see firsthand how your contribution will help others.

During these interactions, should you feel pressure to make a donation immediately or do not get adequate answers to your questions, this may be a warning sign and you should proceed with precaution. Sometimes, telemarketing con artists simply hang up on you once you begin asking them for information they don’t have. Never be afraid to do your own independent research to make sure you really know who and what you will be supporting.

If you suspect that you may be a victim of fraud or attempted fraud, file a report with the State of Hawaii’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Office of Consumer Protection (OCP). The OCP is responsible for reviewing, investigating and prosecuting allegations of unfair or deceptive practices in consumer transactions and educating the public about consumer protection issues.

IMG_1123Additionally, contact the nonprofit organization and inform them of the incident so they can warn their supporters and be on the lookout for other suspicious activity. If the incident involves Helping Hands Hawaii, contact us at hhh@helpinghandshawaii.org or (808) 440-3800 to report the issue.

Despite these negative incidents, there are many families who are in need, and you shouldn’t let the bad overshadow all the good that you can do. The holidays are a wonderful time to reassess how you can personally help others – through a monetary donation, volunteering your time, serving on a board of directors or other ways of sharing your aloha. There are many amazing organizations that need your help, so find a cause that you are passionate about and discover the best way to express your support.

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