The IRS just came out with a warning for charitable minded tax payers. There has been an uptick in groups masquerading as a charity. It actually makes their Dirty Dozen Tax Scams List of 2015. A list, compiled annually, showing the most common scams that taxpayers may encounter. These scams always seem to pick up during filing season.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen advises taxpayers to maintain vigilance when donating money. "When making a donation, taxpayers should take a few extra minutes to ensure their hard-earned money goes to legitimate and currently eligible charities RS.gov has the tools taxpayers need to check out the status of charitable organizations."
I found the tools Mr. Koskinen was referencing here.
Illegal scams carry harsh penalties, interest, and possibly jail time. The IRS teams up with the department of justice to shut down these scams and prosecute the criminals running them.
TIPS WHEN MAKING CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS.
Watch for Charities that have similar sounding names to large national organizations. For example Instead of Salvation Army maybe its Salvation Navy....Or American Cancer Society instead is American Cancer Club. Either way stay cognizant, even though you think you have heard of them before make sure its the legitimate organization.
Don't Give our your personal information - especially financial information like social security numbers, passwords, etc. When making donations you might have to provide some info but think about what they are asking for and why they would need it. Note it is common to use a credit card to make a donation so you just have to be even more certain when making a charitable contribution this way.
Don't give cash. Both for security reasons and because you need to keep records of your donations for tax purposes, cash is not a good way to donate. Use check, credit card, or some other way that provides documentation.
Along the same lines fake charities tend to pop up right after natural disasters and other tragedies. Scam artists create fictitious charities or just impersonate well known charities to get money and information from well intentioned taxpayers. These people will call and email people in an affected area, even stooping so low as to call on victims of the disaster. Fake charity websites also tend to start up during these times as well.
Remain cognizant and perform some due diligence before giving away your hard-earned money.