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When calls from charities reach out for support, Americans respond. As you do your part, though, take care to ensure your money is really going to a worthy cause.

Scam artists count on the good will of Americans, and it's the scammers' business to appear legitimate. So before offering up your credit card number or writing a check, do your homework. Consider researching a charity's legitimacy with organizations such as Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch or GuideStar. You can also check with the National Association of State Charity Officials to see if charities must be registered in your state and, if so, whether a charity contacting you is on file.

The FCC Consumer Guide After Storms, Watch Out for Scams calls out insurance scams aimed at flood-zone residents and offers additional advice for protecting your money when helping others, such as:

  • Verify all phone numbers for charities. If you need to contact a charity by phone, visit the charity's official website to make sure the number you have is legitimate.
  • Do not open suspicious emails. If you receive a suspicious email requesting donations or other assistance, do not click on any links or open any attachments. Scammers regularly use email for phishing attacks and to spread malware.
  • Be skeptical of social media posts. Independently verify any solicitation for charitable donations before you give. If you're using text-to-donate, check the number with the charity first.

Caution is the watchword. If an unsolicited call seems suspicious, or you feel a caller is trying to strong-arm you for a donation, hang up and don't answer if you get a call back. There are plenty of legitimate charities with which you can initiate contact.

While charities are exempt from the Do Not Call list for landline telephones, you can ask them to stop calling you and they must comply.  Legitimate charities will respect your request, but scam callers won't.

At the FCC, we often hear first-hand about phone scams through complaints consumers file with us. You can file complaints with the FCC about unwanted robocalls and robotexts and spoofing, along with telecom billing, service issues and other matters the FCC oversees. Information about the FCC's informal complaint process, including how to file a complaint, and what happens after a complaint is filed, is available in the FCC Complaint Center FAQ.