MoneyGram (NYSE: MGI), a leading global money transfer company, is warning consumers who are in a giving mood not to get taken by a charity scam this tax season.
During 2012, the company says victims of charity scams lost an average of $824 each time they sent money intended for a non-profit organization.
There are a couple key times during the year when consumers think about charitable giving at the end of the year and as they prepare their tax returns and tally their charitable deductions. During these times, they may notice they are receiving an increase in charity and giving requests by e-mail, mail boxes, and over the phone, said Kim Garner, senior vice president of global security and investigations for MoneyGram. Many of these are scams; fraudsters prey upon consumers during these times. If a charity asks for a donation by money transfer, its probably a scam. As a rule, never send a wire transfer to someone you dont know you may lose the money and the intended tax deduction as well.
It would certainly be unusual for a charity to request a donation via MoneyGram. Before giving, donors are well advised to find out if the charity meets the 20 Better Business Bureau (BBB) charity standards by visiting give.org, says H. Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. And, also confirm if the charity has received charitable tax-exempt status from the IRS, especially if you intend to claim a deduction at tax time.
The charity scam occurs when a fraudster asks a victim to donate to a particular cause or organization. The organization may sound similar to a legitimate charity, and may even have a fake website made to look like an organizations official site. In all cases, the scam ends the same way: A victim wires money and cannot get it back.
Garner says there are five red flags that signal a likely charity scam:
- Name Game: The name of the organization is similar to a well-known charity, but is slightly off such as the word United instead of American or Organization instead of Association.
- High Pressure: The caller needs an immediate answer and asks you to donate without taking the time to do any research into the cause or organization.
- Cash Only: The organization will only accept cash through a wire transfer legitimate non-profit organizations accept multiple forms of payment.
- Lack of Information: Anyone soliciting donations should be able to answer questions about the organization. If they cant answer questions, hang up or delete the email.
- Prize Patrol: A legitimate organization wont guarantee a prize for a donation. If they do, its a scam.
Garner advises consumers to keep their hard-earned dollars in their own pockets by following the three Rs recognize, react and report.
- Recognize: Savvy consumers should look for red flags when someone they dont know asks them to send money through a wire service or money order, because scammers often request these methods knowing that once the money is sent, it cannot be retrieved.
- React: When they identify a scam, consumers should immediately put an end to any transaction or conversation hang up the phone, delete the email, or end the back-and-forth messaging.
- Report: Report the suspected scam to the local police, and file reports with the Federal Trade Commission, National Consumers League and Internet Crime Complaint Center (if the suspected fraud was online).
Consumers should call 1-800-MONEYGRAM (800-666-3947) if they believe MoneyGram was used to wire money as a result of a scam. This information can be helpful in stopping others from being scammed by the same scheme. Since mid-2010, MoneyGram has prevented millions of dollars in suspected fraudulent activity, put those dollars back in the pockets of consumers, and kept the funds out of the hands of scammers.
As part of the companys ongoing efforts to protect consumers from fraud, MoneyGram recently launched an enhanced version of its fraud prevention website moneygrampreventfraud.com or Spanish website at moneygramprevenciondefraude.com where consumers can arm themselves with information to prevent monetary losses.
About MoneyGram International
MoneyGram International, a leading money transfer company, enables consumers who are not fully served by traditional financial institutions to meet their financial needs. MoneyGram offers bill payment services in the United States and Canada and money transfer services worldwide through a global network of more than 310,000 agent locations including retailers, international post offices and financial institutions in 197 countries and territories. To learn more about money transfer or bill payment at an agent location or online, please visit moneygram.com or connect with us on Facebook.