Do you want to donate to Ukraine? That is, to help relieve the suffering going on there in whatever way you can? Good for you! But be warned. Unfortunately, there are criminals taking advantage of the invasion to trick you out of your money, through things like phishing scams and (thousands of) fake social media sites claiming to be fundraising for Ukraine. Some people will scam anything. They have no conscience to bruise.
If you desire to help, there’s a few things to keep in mind. A lot of it is good old common sense.
Dangers of social media
“We have identified thousands of hacked social media accounts that have been hacked or used for social media accounts that have been specifically set up for fraud,” said Bitdefender Director of Threat Research and Reporting Bogdan Botezatu.
They were once legitimate pages before thieves took them over, posting bogus fundraising campaigns claiming to send money to Ukrainians in need.
“You may end up funding who knows what, like work or like terrorism, people trafficking and so on,” Botezatu added.
Once the hacker gains control of an innocent person’s social media page, they can reach out to that person’s friends and start the fake fundraising. So how to tell if your friend is foe? They’ll ask you to donate quickly.
Before donating online, make sure the website is spelled correctly. Also, look for an https not an http at the beginning of the URL. And look for a .gov or .org at the end to help weed out cloned websites. When in doubt, call the organization you want to donate to.
Unsurprisingly, there are myriad phishing emails pretending to raise money for displaced people in Ukraine. The money just goes to scammers; plus they would have your personal information.
These email prey upon individuals’ empathy. They seek to take advantage of that, and ride the groundswell of support for fundraising in Ukraine.
Phishing links can also shut down your device. Scammers can even take control of your device and demand ransom. If you’re looking to help in Ukraine, you can also see if your local municipality, school or church has a donation program. Also check out well known organizations like the Red Cross and UNICEF.
How do you keep from getting scammed?
This is where the common sense part comes in. First, do some research before you donate.
And there are the basic steps you should always take to protect yourself. For example, never donate money over the telephone. Also don’t click on links in emails, and don’t respond to high-pressure tactics to get you to pay right away. Remember, there’s no rush. A legitimate charity will accept your money whenever you want to give it.
If you’re going to donate, make sure the organization you want to donate to is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. You can search on the IRS website (Make sure the organization you want to donate to is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. You can search on the IRS website).
If you like, you can research charities further on Guidestar. This includes recent Form 990 filings, such as information about how the charity spends its money. You can find other details too. Things like its mission statement and goals, and how long it has been around. Another is Charity Navigator. They evaluate and rate charities. They even have a web page dedicated to high-performing charities engaged in Ukraine relief.
Don’t pay with cash or a debit card
A credit card can provide more security. Also, check all your accounts. After donating, look for any suspicious activity or unauthorized charges. Set up notifications on your banking app or through your bank that will track credit card transactions and alert you to account activity.