With the school year just underway for East Texas schools, scammers will stand outside supermarkets or other neighborhood stores asking for donations to help the local football team, band or other causes. They may even knock on doors in your neighborhood.

In some cases, the fundraiser may ask businesses to purchase advertising for a program or calendar. Most often, these fundraising efforts are legitimate and go towards a worthwhile cause, but in some cases, they are merely a way to rip-off charitable citizens.

The Better Business Bureau advises consumers and businesses to be on the lookout for dishonest individuals preying on school spirit.

“It’s important not to fall prey to an emotional appeal before donating to any charitable cause without first doing your homework,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas said. “With a simple phone call to the school or by going to the district’s website, you should be able to verify the legitimacy of a school fundraiser.”

The BBB provides the following donation tips in mind the next time you consider giving to any charity or cause:

  • Watch Out for High Pressure-Solicitations. Do not give in to excessive pressure for an immediate donation. Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion but short on describing what the charity will actually do to meet their organizational goals.
  • Protect your Personal Information. Never give your credit card number or other personal information in response to an unsolicited telephone call, email or personal message on your social media profile from someone that is soliciting a donation.
  • Ask Questions. Do not hesitate to ask for written information that describes the charity’s programs, community reputation, privacy policy and financial standing. If a charity is reluctant to answer these reasonable questions, it should be considered a red flag.
  • Avoid Giving Cash. Cash donations are difficult to track, making it harder for consumers to get tax deductions and easier for scammers to go unnoticed. It is best to use a credit or debit card which offers consumers protection in case a problem arises. If you must write a check, make it out to the name of the charitable organization. Never write a check to the individual collecting the donation. If paying by credit card, never write your card number on a sheet of paper. This is very risky and an easy way to get your information in the wrong hands.
  • Be Wary of Imitations. Keep an eye out for fake charities that imitate the name and style of well-known organizations in order to potentially steal personal information such as credit card numbers.
  • Confirm Text Code Numbers. If you plan to donate by text message, confirm the text code number directly with the charity. Also, keep in mind that text message donations are typically not immediate. Depending on your cell phone provider, the donation may not show up on your bill for 30 to 90 days.

Find out about Tax Deductibility in Advance. For your donation to be tax deductible, the charity must be tax exempt under section 501©(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Visit IRS Publication 78 on www.irs.gov for a current list of all organizations eligible to receive contributions that are deductible as charitab–le gifts.

– For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.