Experts say verification is key in online charity donations

Experts say verification is key in online charity donations

LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - Giving Tuesday is day set aside for donating to charities across the globe, but cyber security experts said verifying organizations, links and websites is key to ensure donations go to a legitimate cause.

"It's very easy to fashion a website that looks like the website you're trying to go to, especially if it's a public website," said Tommy Dorsey, vice president of Burton Computer Resources, Inc. in Laurel. "It's very easy for a graphic designer to copy, make an exact replica of that website."

Dorsey said checking for correct spelling, especially on links sent in emails, is a good way to be ensure a website is legitimate.

"You might get an email that looks like it's from the organization you want to give to, but the link that you click on takes you to a bad place to give," he said. "One of the ways to combat that is to actually just go to the website directly that you want to give to."

Before you type in credit card information, Dorsey said to make sure the connection is secure.

"Make sure you have a lock on your browser," he said. "That indicates that there is a secure communication between your browser and the server that's going to receive your credit card."

Dorsey suggests checking for reviews of a charity before donating on websites like Snopes.comCharity Navigator can help you find real organizations and explain how they will use your money.

The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance (BBB WGA) offers these tips:

  • Watch out for name similarities. When charities seek support for the same cause, their names are often similar. Before you give, be sure you have the exact name of the charity to avoid a case of mistaken identity.
  • Avoid on-the-spot donation decisions from unfamiliar organizations. The holidays bring a higher frequency of donation requests outside public locations. Don’t succumb to pressure to make an immediate giving decision. Responsible organizations will welcome your gift tomorrow as much as they do today.
  • Be wary of emotional appeals. Marketers have been known to exploit the holidays to make emotional pleas to donors. Always research to verify that your selected charity operates ethically.
  • Avoid charities that don’t disclose. Although participation is voluntary, charities that don’t disclose any of the requested information to BBB WGA raise a critical red flag for donors. Visit to find out if your selected charity is nondisclosure.
  • Rely on standards-based evaluations. Charities can demonstrate they are trustworthy by agreeing to in-depth evaluations such as the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. Get free access to charity reports at