TULSA, Okla. — 'Tis the season for giving.
But your charitable heart may put you at risk of falling victim to scammers.
The 2News Oklahoma Problem Solvers warn us about charity scams, as we count down the 12 scams of Christmas.
The FBI is warning that scammers are soliciting donations for individuals and groups affected by the pandemic. People want to help. And because life has changed so much, they're not questioning suspicious transactions
Sadly, not every dollar donated is going to the folks who desperately need it.
That concerned Sophie, from Tulsa, who called us to say, "I gave a $100 donation to a group I hadn't heard of before, but a gentleman called saying they were helping families during the holidays, who were still suffering financially because of Covid. I used my debit card, but when I looked at the transaction in my account, I knew it was a fraud."
Sophie's certainly not alone.
The FBI has received reports of scammers using the pandemic as a way to help themselves to your money.
"While the fraudsters are just kind of adapting their normal playbook to incorporate something that, you know, might be a little more believable because of COVID-19."
Supervisory Special Agent Keith Custer said people are going along with these scams because our sense of normal has changed.
"When you're being asked to do something a little unusual, like buy a bunch of gift cards, as well as no way to you know, pay for something, then, you know, sometimes people kind of let their guard down and think oh, well, that that seems reasonable when in fact, it really isn't."
Pay with a credit card and give to organizations you know, check that they're registered with your state. And websites like GuideStar and Charity Navigator can tell you how much organizations spend on programs and services versus overhead and fundraising and don't feel pressured into giving over the phone. The caller could be an imposter or masking who they're working for.
"We've seen people incorporating political action committees or PACs. They were soliciting donations on behalf of the volunteer fire department."
Back to Sophie, she says, "I'm a widow and have some extra money, and like to help people. I'm just upset I ended up giving money to fraudsters."
Besides a giving spirit, like Sophie's, there' another incentive to give.
The IRS is once again offering a special tax deduction for those who claim the standard deduction.
Single taxpayers can deduct up to $300 in cash donations, and married individuals can deduct up to $600 in donations when they file their taxes next year.
But it's only for qualifying tax-exempt organizations.
The IRS has an easy lookup tool on its website.
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