Senior Citizens and End-of-Year Giving

Help aging parents be excited about technology and to use it, but also counsel them to be skeptical, savvy, and ask questions.

It is the time of year when many scammers make telephone calls or send e-mails asking for contributions to charity. I have a rule. Unless it is my college or one of the charities that I regularly contribute to (perhaps reminding me that I have not yet contributed), I never make contributions based on telephone calls or e-mails, no matter how compelling a caller makes his or her story or how much I want to believe it. USA Today had an interesting article on avoiding holiday giving scams in the December 3, 2009 issue.

Because many seniors are sympathetic and empathetic, they are often victims of charitable giving scams. This is a source of irritation and frustration, and sometimes fear, for many retirees. If the pitch is too emotional, it is probably not true or at least questionable. At the end of this post are several links to provide more information.

The Charity Review Council quotes a Federal Trade Commission study that says that “…seniors that have excellent credit ratings and own or have owned their own homes are excellent marks for thieves.”

Here are my rules of thumb. These are not original because you can find similar tips on the links I’ve listed at the end of this post.

  • Give to charities you know and do not respond to unsolicited letters, e-mails, or phone calls.
  • Just because a friend contributes does mean that you need to contribute. Do your homework.
  • If you have a question about a charity, check the Charity Review Council or the Better Business Bureau. These sites offer reviews and tips for all sorts of philanthropic giving.
  • If you get too emotional about a “giving pitch,” this is probably a hint to step back and learn more.
  • Don’t be a afraid to hang up on telephone callers asking for money. Remind them you are on the “do not call registry list.” If you are not on this list, go to the web site and enter your telephone numbers. It is not rude to hang up on an unsolicited phone caller.
  • Just because someone sends you “gifts” such as labels or greeting cards does not mean you have to send back a contribution. According to the Charity Review Council, it is “… illegal for organizations to demand payment for something you did not order.”
  • Do not give out personal information on the telephone in response to any unsolicited phone call or e-mail. If I go to a web location on my own, I will put in information as long as I am sure of the site. I never add information when the site has been e-mailed or phoned to me.
  • Sometimes people may receive a mailed or e-mailed note that says “a pledge” has been made to an organization. If you do not remember making a pledge, do not send in your money. This is a big way that scammers make money, taking advantage of our faulty memories (at all of our ages).

There are plenty of organizations that deserve your money.  If you know the organization, so much the better. If you are considering an organization that you have only recently learned about, use the links below to do some homework.

Here are some links to help a person discover more about an unfamiliar charity as well as the scams that exist:

  1. Charity Review Council
  2. Colors of Charity
  3. Check out online charitable giving scams
  4. Better Business Bureau charitable giving information

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