FBI Detroit
Detroit Media Team
(313) 965-5749
March 19, 2024

FBI and IRS Urge Warning on Illegal Charities, Donation Scams

DETROIT, MI—With the rise in international crises happening around the globe, many are responding to the call to give what they can to help. When fake charities scam unsuspecting donors, the proceeds don’t go to those who need the help, contributions may be routed to illegal fundraisers, and those contributing to these fake charities can’t deduct their donations on their tax returns.

“Unfortunately, conflicts and crises create ideal situations for criminals to take advantage of people who are either stressed about their own losses or who want to help others—or both,” said Cheyvoryea Gibson, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Michigan. “Criminals are happy to exploit anyone, and the more distracted their victims are, the better.”

“These schemes prey on the good nature of American taxpayers and IRS-CI will use all of its investigative tools to uncover fraudulent charitable/donation scams designed to steal money from hard-working taxpayers,” said Special Agent in Charge Charles Miller, IRS-Criminal Investigation, Detroit Field Office.

Criminals often claim to offer assistance from the government or nonprofits through emails, texts, or phone calls. Do not provide any personal information until you are satisfied and have confirmed the legitimacy of the agency and the message.

Scammers prey on the generous by creating bogus charities or misrepresenting real charities. Pleas for money may come door-to-door, through emails and texts, on the phone, or even at grocery stores and other places with donation buckets. In addition to lining their own pockets with your generous donation, scammers may also be after your personal and financial information.

When taxpayers decide to support a cause they care about, they want their donation to do as much good as possible. Doing some research can help ensure donations go to legitimate and qualified charities and help donors avoid scams. The IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search tool is a great place to start.

The FBI also warns the public about sending financial contributions to groups that support terrorism. Terror networks require funding in some form to exist and operate. Whether the funding and financial support is minimal or substantial, it leaves a financial trail that can be traced, tracked, and exploited for proactive and reactive purposes. For the latest information, please review the U.S. Department of State’s Terrorist Designations and State Sponsors of Terrorism website.

Keep these tips in mind before making a financial contribution:

  • Donate to charities you know and trust.
  • Designate the donation to go to a specific relief efforts as opposed to a general fund.
  • Never click on links or open attachments in unsolicited e-mails, texts, or social media posts.
  • Verify the legitimacy of any solicitation by contacting the organization directly through a trusted contact number.
  • Do your research. Use the Federal Trade Commission’s resources to examine the track record of a charity.
  • Beware of organizations with names that are similar to, but not exactly the same as, those of reputable charities.
  • Avoid charities that ask for you to pay by cash, gift card, virtual currency, or wire transfer.
  • Pay by credit card or write a check directly to the charity; do not make checks payable to individuals.
  • Know that most legitimate charity websites end in “.org” rather than “.com.”
  • Make contributions directly; do not rely on others to make a contribution on your behalf.

If you believe you have been a victim or have information about these types of schemes, the FBI and IRS recommend that you:

For more information, visit the FBI’s resources on Charity and Disaster Fraud and the IRS’ notice entitled Beware of Fake Charities.