27 May 2022


    How To Tell If You’re Donating To A Worthy Charity… Or Getting Scammed

    With so much need in South Africa, there’s no shortage of causes looking for support. But there’s also a fair number of scammers out there. Here’s how to tell if a charity is the real deal.

    The formula is usually the same – a sad story that tugs at the heartstrings, followed by an earnest plea for financial assistance. “Whatever you can spare; every little bit helps”. Deep down, you may suspect that you’re being scammed, but what if it’s real? What kind of person would you be to refuse help to someone in need? It’s a conundrum we face constantly – on the streets, in our mailboxes, inboxes, and on our social media feeds. So, before you part with your money, here are some ways to check if the charity in question is what they say they are.

    Do they have the necessary credentials?

    There’s a very clear process that needs to be followed in order to register a nonprofit organisation in South Africa – and the details are clearly laid out on the government website. What’s more, the service is free. So, if a local charity can’t provide proper proof of registration, that should be a red flag. 

    Are they established?

    forgood is a platform that connects volunteers with trustworthy causes around South Africa. After years of experience, they’ve developed strict criteria for vetting a charity before it can be added to their database, explains forgood's Bokang Mokena. “All our causes need to meet the following requirements: documentation that proves the cause is older than one year (we accept the following: NPO certificate, NPC certificate, or Public Benefit Trust Deed), latest tax compliance document from SARS, the cause's logo (in JPG or PNG format) and their contact details. Optional, but highly recommended, they should be able to supply a PBO (public benefit organisation) certificate and latest financial statements.”

    Is their website legit?

    Charity websites will usually end in .org, not .com. Also check the name very closely – a scam website or email address may mimic an established, well-known charity but if you look closely, you’ll spot that the name is slightly wrong. 

    What are they asking for?

    You should be able to donate to the charity with a credit card. If they request a bank transfer, assume it’s a scam – and never give out your bank details and pin. Also, never donate by clicking on email links – rather go directly to the charity’s website.

    Be wary of crowdfunding pleas.

    Platforms like Gofundme and Backabuddy have made it easy for individuals to request financial help from all around the world. But don’t believe every charity request you see on social media. If you don’t personally know the fundraiser, do your homework – google their name and see if any known scams come up. Look at their social media profiles and see if they’ve appeared in any local media, like community newspapers or radio stations.

    Use trusted platforms.

    Don’t let the threat of scams put you off giving to charity. If you want to give, but you’re in doubt, play it safe by going through a trusted platform, like forgood, which does the vetting process for you.  

    Stay safe.

    While we may not be totally able to escape online scams, knowing how to act in the aftermath of being a victim is vital.

    Click here for more tips on how to avoid falling victim to digital fraud.

    Cover image by Getty Images