Positively 50+: Protecting yourself against ‘charity scams’

Dec 21, 2023, 3:52 PM | Updated: 3:56 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — American consumers lost nearly $9 billion to fraud last year. And while Gen Z actually falls victim to scammers at a higher rate than older generations, it’s important to protect yourself at any age this time of year.

Scammers really can strike anyone at any time.

“These can look very convincing. I had a text on my phone that looked like it was from my bank and said you know, contact this number,” said Nels Holmgren, Director of the Utah Division of Aging and Adult Services.

Thankfully, he didn’t fall for it.

“One of the techniques they use the most is just pressure. You have to donate today. If you ask, ‘Can I call you back?’ they say no, this is a one-time opportunity. We all know there’s no reputable charity that won’t say, ‘Sure… Call us back,'” Holmgren said.

Nels said the key is being prepared. And Utah’s seniors aren’t just sitting around waiting for fraudsters to make fools out of them. They’re smart.

“Our seniors are very savvy. They’re on the internet a lot. It’s very easy to search,” he said.

Americans donated nearly $500 billion to charity last year alone, and more than 60% did so during the holidays. We know that Utah consistently gives more than any other state, so it’s essential to do your research.

Sites like Charity Watch and Charity Navigator, or even the Better Business Bureau and the IRS, have tools to verify whether or not your donation is doing the most good. But you also might find organizations you’ve never even heard of.

“There are charities people may have no idea even exist that are right up their alley with things they feel strongly about, so I would say, do some research, use some common sense, and don’t get pressured,” Nels said.

Check out Charity Navigator, for example. You can search for the non-profit that speaks to you with several drop-down menus.

According to the website, Utah has only the top “4 Star” charities in our state.

When selecting the smallest organizations, those that bring in under $500,000 annually, about 90 charities popped up under that search criteria.

Hope Clinic, Inc. is one of those charities, and with a few clicks, people will know they are based in Midvale, have been around for 30 years, and provide medication services to those without means for basic care.

And it’s that easy. That way, you know who is getting that hard-earned donation dollar. Nels said that the Area Agencies on Aging across Utah are the best resources for seniors.

You can find out more information through the Division of Aging and Adult Services website.

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Positively 50+: Protecting yourself against ‘charity scams’