Beware of charity phone scams. Scammers are now impersonating holiday and seasonal charities, trying to trick people into handing over their credit card information.

The giving season will soon be upon us. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of scammers looking to take advantage of Americans' generosity. The emergence of new charity phone scams is leading police and charities alike to warn the public. It begins with a simple phone call. On the other line is a man or woman claiming to be a representative of Toys for Tots or some other seasonal giving organization. After talking for a bit and explaining the organization's mission, the person on the other end of the line will eventually ask for a donation and offer to take a credit card number over the phone. The problem is that the whole thing is a scam. A spokesperson for Toys for Tots condemned those who use these charity phone scams. "It makes me very upset, this is a great program and people using and abusing the Toys for Tots name and trying to take advantage." The scam is leading many charities to confirm that they will never cold call to solicit donations. While there are some instances where unaffiliated volunteers could make calls on their own to solicit donations to one charity or another, the best bet is simply not to donate money on calls you receive from charities. The reasoning is obvious: there is no way to verify whether the call is legitimate or not, and it is next to impossible to get the money back once the payment is processed. And because this is a scam, the scammer will likely charge your card much more than whatever total they tell you.
The safest way to donate to many of these organizations is to make donations at drop-off areas. If you want to donate to Toys for Tots, for example, donate an actual toy. If you want to feed the hungry, drop off a case of canned goods to a donation drop area. This will decrease the likelihood of accidentally donating to a scam. Scammers are interested in your credit card information, not a Barbie doll or can of soup. You can take one more step by only donating to reputable businesses or government agencies. Car dealerships often hold toy or food drives during the holiday season and you can almost always find a police or fire station that is collecting donations this time of year. Many schools also have canned good donation drives in the lead up to Thanksgiving and Christmas if you can't make it directly to a local food shelter. The most sure-fire way to make sure your donation is going to the right place is to donate your time instead. Volunteer at a local food pantry or shelter and help prepare and serve holiday meals. The holiday season brings out the best in our humanity but, unfortunately, it also brings out the worst as well. While it is easy to get caught up in the thought of helping people in need, be sure that you are donating to a bona fide charity and remember that if you get a call out of the blue soliciting donations, it very likely could be a scam. Do you know of a great, local charity that helps people in need during the holiday season? Let us know in the comment section below so we can feature them!

Getting calls by scammers? Here's how you can lead them on and waste their time to make sure they can't scam more people!