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Do right when employees do good

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in Payroll Today

I was at my local ATM withdrawing money the other day. The welcome screen wasn’t the typical ad for the bank’s services. Instead, I was asked whether I’d like to make a charitable donation to help the victims of the recent floods in South Carolina. Maybe some of your employees saw something similar. Or maybe they received an alert on their phones.

Unfortunately, natural disasters bring out scam artists of all stripes. Here are some tips you can pass along to employees before they hit the “Yes” button or key in their credit card information.

Donor beware

To help disaster victims, advise employees to donate only to recognized charities. Employees should be on the lookout for charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations.

Scammers also operate bogus websites that solicit funds for disaster victims. These fraudulent sites frequently mimic the sites of, or use names similar to, legitimate charities, or claim to be affiliated with legitimate charities in order to persuade you to send money or provide personal financial information. This information can then be used to steal your identity or empty your bank account.

Additionally, scammers often send emails that steer you to bogus websites that appear to be affiliated with legitimate charitable causes. Employees should know that legitimate charities rarely send unsolicited emails.

The IRS’ website (yes, the IRS) has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, through which employees can find legitimate, qualified charities. Even better: Donations to these charities may be tax deductible. Legitimate charities may also be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency website at

Two don’ts, one do

It’s a natural impulse to reach out to help victims of natural disasters. Scammers’ first thought, though, is how they can take advantage of that. Here are three more charitable donation basics to impart to employees:

  1. Don’t give out personal financial information—such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords—to anyone who solicits a contribution from you. Scam artists may use this information to steal your identity and money.
  2. Don’t give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the gift.
  3. Do report suspected disaster-related frauds to the IRS; type report phishing in the search box in the upper right portion of the IRS’ home page.

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