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How to make safe online donations and protect yourself

Here are 8 tips to help make sure your hard-earned cash is donated to the right people and your personal security isn’t compromised:

Woman holding a tablet making online donation
Be careful not to get so swept up with feelings of goodwill that you forget to check a website’s security

We are about to enter the peak month for donations to charities, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Although many people still donate to charities via in-person cash donations, there’s a growing use of websites, social media and apps to make payments online. Sadly, the increase in online fraud grows hand-in-hand with the increase in online donations, so it makes sense to do everything you can to try to protect yourself and your donation from the fraudsters. The following 8 tips will help:

1. Get into the habit of never clicking on a hyperlink embedded in an email. Visit the charity’s own website by typing the website address into the browser yourself.

2. Check that the charity’s website address is secure. You can do that in two ways:

I: There should be a padlock symbol in the browser window frame, which appears when you attempt to log in or register. Be sure that the padlock is not on the page itself as this will probably indicate a fraudulent site.

II: The web address should begin with ‘https://’. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’.

The 'https://' in a secure website
Check for the green ‘https://’ and padlock on website’s url

3. If you are using the latest version of your browser, the address bar or the name of the site owner will turn green. Have a go now: copy/paste ‘http://www.redcross.org.uk/’ into your browser and then go to the donation page. When you click to make a donation, the beginning of the address bar should go green and a green padlock should appear.

4. Ignore unsolicited emails from charities you have never heard of or have no association with, and do not respond and never click on links contained in an email. If you are interested in the charity’s ‘promotion’ go to the charity’s website and look for it there.

5. Don’t be hoodwinked by a ‘.org’ website address. Anyone can purchase a domain name with ‘.org’ on the end of it and then produce a website that looks just like the real thing.

6. Check the date the charity’s website was last updated. Not every charity will update their site, but it’s a good indicator that information on the site, including the charity’s mission and purpose, have remained the same as the ones that you adhere to.

A credit card caught by a fishing hook (phishing)
Don’t get caught phishing

7. Remember to check or uncheck the little boxes: make sure that the charity gives you an “opt in” or at least an “opt out” option. An “opt in” option puts the burden on the charity to obtain your permission before using your personal information for other purposes. An “opt out” puts the burden on you to notify the charity if you don’t want your information used for other purposes.

8. Take a screen shot: once you have donated, screen shot the charity’s confirmation of receipt of your money before closing out the site. Next, check your emails for a confirmation of receipt of donation. If you do not get an emailed confirmation (assuming you have provided your email address), contact the charity immediately and your bank.

For further information about protecting yourself from fraudsters read a blog post I wrote last year titled: ‘Essential tips to protect your money from SMiShing, phishing and vishing’.

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