Time and time again, Americans prove themselves to be the most generous people on planet Earth. But I don't want you to let that generous spirit be taken advantage of!
It seems like you can't go far on the web these days without seeing someone doing the Ice Bucket Challenge -- pouring a bucket of ice water over their head on camera at the dare of a friend or family member.
The ice cold gesture encourages people to donate $100 for research into the cause and cure of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
But be warned, some of those emails and videos you may be seeing online could contain malware or otherwise try to get at your sensitive financial info.
Scamsters sending fake Ice Bucket Challenge emails and video files
Software security company Thirtyseven4 has put out an alert about Ice Bucket Challenge-themed scams.
Among their concerns are emails with headlines promising must-see Ice Bucket videos that may contain spyware, and attachments containing those videos that could load malware onto your computer when you first open them.
As Thirtyseven4 noted, the whole scam angle is very reminiscent of what went on recently with an alleged final video shot by Robin Williams moments before his tragic suicide.
The takeaway for you? Don't click on what you don't know -- even if it comes from a trusted source like a friend or family member.
And while you're at it, consider doing a credit freeze if you haven't done so already. A credit freeze will stop crooks from opening new lines of credit in your name should they be able to get access to your information. (It won't prevent you from using current lines of credit you already have open.) Visit ClarkHoward.com and search "credit freeze" for more info.
Meanwhile, I recently took the Ice Bucket Challenge. See my video, in which I nominate radio personality Neal Boortz to pick up a bucket, here:
General safety guidelines for charity donations
I always want you to remember, before donating to any charity, you want to be sure that the lion's share of the money will go where it's needed. Every charity has different overhead costs. Research your favorite charities and learning how much of your donation will go to the intended purpose (vs. how much will go to overhead) at Give.org, CharityWatch.org and CharityNavigator.org.
Here are some more important tips to keep in mind:
- Don't give cash. Legitimate charities will take a check.
- When telemarketers calls, don't give them your credit card, bank account, or personal information. Initiate the call yourself if you want to donate.
- Don't give in to pressure. Anyone that can't wait for a donation while you check out his or her organization is likely to be a crook.
- Expect specific information when you're being pitched on a charity donation. Ask what kind of relief this organization is going to provide. Don't give to a vague appeal.
- Check out the charity with national, state, and local authorities. Established charities register with the Internal Revenue Service. You can search for specific non-profit organizations on the IRS website, IRS.gov.
- Beware of newly formed organizations. If the charity is new, you may have to rely on your relationship with the company or sponsor of the organization to determine whether you trust the group.
- Report abuses to the nearest Better Business Bureau and the State Attorney General's office. You can also report abuses to the National Fraud Information Center using their web-based complaint form at Fraud.org.