Scammers look to take advantage of generosity during holiday season

WICHITA, Kan. Following the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday kicks off the charitable season.

The global day of giving encourages people to get involved for your community, trusted charities or non-profit organizations. But as with the shopping days, a day focused on giving comes with a warning about scammers waiting to take advantage of good intentions.

The Better Business Bureau shares advice on how to avoid scams and give wisely. Among those tips is to watch out for name similarities and not to make a donation on the spot if you're unfamiliar with a charity. You should also avoid organizations that do not disclose information.

The website for Giving Tuesday includes a directory to help you find reputable organizations and charities in your community.

One of the biggest ways people identify and help to meet needs of others in their community is through GoFundMe campaigns.

Denise Groene, Kansas Director for the Better Business Bureau warns it's not uncommon for scams to pop up with GoFundMe campaigns.

"The biggest reports we get on GoFundMe scams are people disappointed in the fact that they donate to a particular campaign, only to find out after the fact that it's fraudulent," Groene says. "So, there are some things you can do to help protect yourself."

Groene advises to be mindful that GoFundMe doesn't vet all of its campaigns, because there are too many of them and those administering the site can't keep up with the volume.

"As a person who is willing to donate on GoFundMe, it's really up to you to vet any sort of campaign prior to giving money," Groene says.

Groene says there are a couple things you can do to help determined if a campaign is reputable. First, you should know who started the campaign and who organized it. It also helps if someone you know well, like a friend or family member, is connected with the person benefiting from the campaign. If there is any doubt about where the money donated online will go, you should try contact the person needing the help directly.

The Better Business Bureau says more people are aware of possible GoFundMe scams after a couple raised money on the site for a homeless veteran, claiming they wanted to repay him for giving them his last $20 for gas.

The story went viral and the GoFundMe page collected $400,000. But a new Jersey prosecutor says the story was a hoax to get money.

"A lot of times, we don't hear about the campaigns that are fraudulent simply because people don't know they are," Groene says. "So they might donate to something, thinking it's legitimate. It probably doesn't get a lot of traction on social media, so it might never be found that it's a fraudulent campaign."