Growing up in an increasingly digital world has benefits but also comes with added risks. The internet is home to many untrustworthy organizations that one must be wary of before purchasing goods. It would be next to impossible to identify every one of these scams, so it is up to each individual user to recognize whether or not you can trust a company or charity. It is easy to infer that you probably won’t be going on a vacation with a Nigerian princess, but often, these scams are well-disguised as goods or services one would actually purchase. There are a couple different ways you can evaluate an organization’s credentials before working with them.
One easy way is to look up the company or charity on Yelp or another business reviewing website. Seeing what other customers think about the services or products can be a good insight into the company. Observing no reviews or previous customers issues would be a major red flag. An excessive amount of reviews that seem computer generated or all say exactly the same thing would also indicate an untrustworthy business. Another helpful website would be the IRS or the state business registration site. The information available about companies is useful to see whether or not you would like to do business with them.
When researching a charity to donate to online, finding out if it is legitimate, what percentage of the money is donated to their cause, and whether or not the charity is financially stable and sustainable are important factors. That however, can take quite a bit of time. Luckily, websites like BBB’s better giving alliance can help to do it for you. If you scroll down to the bottom of a charity’s website, look for a little icon that says BBB Accredited Charity. That is a good sign, but icons are easy to copy so it might be helpful to actually click on the icon, visit the website, and review the information BBB has on the charity. Also, some charities might choose not to display the icon. If so, you can still visit BBB’s give.org to see if the charity is accredited and what information is available. This way, you can donate to a trustworthy charity and ensure your money is doing good. If you want to donate to a smaller, local charity and they have not been vetted by the BBB, researching the founder would be a good place to start. Another good place to start would be asking friends or neighbors if they have heard of the charity.
Just because you are looking online for a company or charity, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask around. Trustworthy friends are always a good place to go for referrals. This becomes even more important with the more money you intend to spend. If you intend to spend a lot of money but don’t know anyone who has worked with the company before, you could always call the company and ask to speak to a previous customer as a referral. In doing so, be alert for anything suspicious as it could indicate a scam.