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Posted in Online Savvy | May 2013

Online security: donating safely

Online Security
The advent of online donation has been invaluable to charities, allowing them to offer simpler, faster ways for benefactors to donate. But since it does involve the transmission of sensitive personal and financial information, it’s critical to take a few precautions to ensure that your privacy isn’t compromised.

According to Charity Watch, a non-profit charity watchdog and information service, there are some steps that you can and should take to protect yourself:

  • Know your charity. Don’t give to a charity you know nothing about (this applies to offline donations too, particularly people who come to your door asking for charitable donations). Do a little research before making a donation to make sure the organization is legitimate. Checking with the IRS to see if an organization has tax-exempt status is one way to help you determine if the charity is on the up and up (IRS ). Visit the CRA to get more information about registered Canadian charities, or The Charity Commission if you’re in England or Wales.
  • The presence of a website doesn’t guarantee that a charity is real—it’s not difficult to put up a bogus website that looks legitimate. Find a working e-mail address and an actual phone number and street address so that you can contact the charity for more information if need be.
  • Make sure the charity’s website uses encrypted technology to protect you when you’re donating online. Look for “https:” at the beginning of the URL address on any pages that require you to input personal information. The “s” stands for “secure” and indicates that your information will be encrypted and transmitted securely.
  • Find and read the website’s privacy policy to make sure any information you provide is going to be handled in a manner that you’re comfortable with. Some charities sell or trade your contact information to other charities, which means you could end up with an inbox full of requests for donations.1
  • Don’t respond to email solicitations from charities you’re not familiar with or haven’t supported in the past. Always visit their official websites by doing an online search, not by clicking on a link in an unsolicited e-mail.

Online donation doesn’t have to be scary and it can be an important way for legitimate, registered charities to fundraise! Just be sure to do a little homework before you make your contribution.

Don’t forget that sometimes very small, local organizations aren’t registered charities, but are legitimate just the same. Think of a high school carwash raising funds in support of a field trip, or a knitting group making articles of clothing for a local hospital. It can be perfectly safe to donate to these sorts of causes if you have educated yourself about the group, the people in it, and their online donation process.

For more advice on donating securely visit Charity Watch or Charity Navigator.

There are many steps you can take to increase the security of your personal activity online. These tips are by no means the only methods available, but are some of the ways you can start protecting yourself.

Sources

1 http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=1209

409502 CAN/US (04/15)

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