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The Internal Revenue Service and Security Summit partners warn taxpayers to be wary this holiday season of fake charities, used by scammers to get money as well as sensitive financial and personal information from victims. The IRS used Giving Tuesday, a special day as the holidays approach for people to give to their favorite causes through charitable organizations, to issue a warning about fake charities.

Scammers sometimes set up fake charities to trick unsuspecting donors into providing not only money, but also their sensitive information.

The Security Summit – a coalition of state tax agencies, the nation’s tax community and the IRS – urged people to make sure they are giving to a legitimate charity. This can help protect taxpayer’s personal and financial data and help prevent tax-related identity theft.

Donors should always check to make sure they are giving to a legitimate charity and can easily do so by using a special IRS tool: the Tax-Exempt Organization Search Tool.

Giving Tuesday fell during the IRS’ National Tax Security Awareness Week, now in its sixth year. The IRS, state tax agencies and the nation’s tax industry – working together
as the Security Summit – provide tips during the week to help protect people against identity theft as well as help safeguard sensitive tax information that criminals can use to try filing fake tax returns and obtaining refunds.

The special week includes special informational graphics and social media efforts on platforms including Twitter and Instagram.

The combination of the holiday shopping season, the upcoming tax season and the pandemic create additional opportunities for criminals to steal sensitive information. People should take extra care while shopping online or viewing emails and texts.

The Summit partners remind taxpayers to be on the lookout for scammers and identity thieves who set up fake organizations to take advantage of the public’s generosity. Scammers take advantage of tragedies and disasters.

Scams requesting donations for disaster relief efforts are especially common over the phone. Taxpayers should always check out a charity before they donate, and they should not feel pressured to give immediately.

Tips to help taxpayers avoid fake charity scams

  • Individuals should never let any caller pressure them. A legitimate charity will be happy to get a donation at any time, so there’s no rush. Donors are encouraged to take time to do their own research.
  • Confirm the charity is real. Potential donors should ask the fundraiser for the charity’s exact name, website and mailing address so they can confirm it later. Some dishonest telemarketers use names that sound like well-known charities to confuse people.
  • Be careful about how a donation is made. Taxpayers shouldn’t work with charities that ask for donations by giving numbers from a gift card or by wiring money. That’s a scam. It’s safest to pay by credit card or check — and only after researching the charity.

Taxpayers who give money or goods to a charity may be able to claim a deduction on their federal tax return by reducing the amount of their taxable income. However, to receive a deduction, taxpayers must donate to a qualified charity. To check the status of a charity, they can use the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search tool.


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