We all want to lend a helping hand, and many folks across the country are pitching in to help their communities get through the challenges brought on by the coronavirus. But at times like these, it is more important than ever to make sure any charitable donations you make are going to the right organizations.

Scammers are pouncing on the opportunity to take advantage of the pandemic and are reported to have already registered addresses that include covid19, or coronavirus in their name. It is important that all of us remain vigilant against these fraudulent schemes. You should never give money through a link that someone emails you or provides via social media, no matter how much you may trust that person. He or she could have been scammed too. Also be wary of email attachments that claim to be links to charitable organizations. They could contain malware that can infect your computer.

Here are some more tips on avoiding charity scams:

  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites.
  • Avoid organizations using names that closely resemble better-known, reputable groups — for example, givetotheredcross.org, rather than redcross.org.
  • Be wary of groups that won’t provide proof that a contribution is tax-deductible.
  • Watch out for those who thank you for a pledge you don’t remember making.
  • Avoid those who pressure you to donate immediately without giving you time to think about it or do any research.
  • Never give to anyone who asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire money.

Other charities, including local ones, may also be reputable but simply not well-known. To learn about them, check with organizations that vet charities. But remember, a charity recommended by one organization might fall short by another’s standards. Therefore, check with at least two rating groups before you make a gift.

Here are four vetting sites that can help:

Charitywatch.org — a site run by the American Institute of Philanthropy — has a good record of discovering charity scams and weaknesses, and it has letter grades for many charities.

CharityNavigator.org uses a star rating system to vet numerous charities.

Guidestar.org has a list of expert-recommended charities involved in relief efforts.

Give.org is the Better Business Bureau’s charity-checking site, allowing you to verify which ones meet its accreditation standards.

If you encounter a charity you suspect is fraudulent, notify the Department of Justice at disaster@leo.gov, which tracks and attempts to shut down scams. And thank you for supporting those charities that truly are working to make life easier for those who need our help.

This material was prepared for informational and/or educational purposes only. AM 1129073