NJCPA offers 7 tips for giving to Ukraine — and avoiding being scammed

In times of crisis, New Jersey residents are quick to offer aid. It’s why the state — responding to the terror being inflicted upon Ukraine by Russia — has started a website to help residents connect with organizations that are providing assistance there.

That’s a good thing — for there are many unscrupulous people out there.

With that in mind, the New Jersey Society of CPAs is warning that scammers exist — looking to get donations from people who think they are aiding those in the Ukraine.

Here are seven good tips from the NJCPA:

Do your research, Part I: Find out if the group is for real. NJCPA officials say the first step is determining whether the charity is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.

The IRS’s exempt organization search can assist with that. You can also search for a charity via the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.

Do your research, Part II: Not all 501(c)(3)’s are the same. The GuideStar and Charity Navigator websites offer additional information. GuideStar provides access to recent IRS Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax, filings, which can be used to gauge how much a not-for-profit spends on programs.

Don’t give by phone: Experts advise that money should never be donated over the phone, links in email solicitations should not be clicked and high-pressure tactics seeking to get you to pay immediately are a sign of danger.

Make sure you’re visiting the correct website: You’d be surprised at how many fake websites look real. Again, GuideStar and Charity Navigator can help. Rather than clicking on a link, you would be wise to go to a reputable site to get the URL and then type it in manually.

Don’t pay with cash or a debit card: A credit card provides more security.

After donating, check your accounts regularly: Look for any suspicious activity or unauthorized charges and set up notifications, through your bank or a banking app, that will track your credit card transactions and alert you to account activity.

And, finally …

Slow down: You don’t have to give immediately. It’s worth repeating that doing some upfront research can potentially spare you headaches down the road.

If you believe you are the victim of a scam, contact your financial institution to put a hold on your credit card and notify the attorney general in your state, then file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.