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Watch Out for Political Donation Scams

September 07, 2018

​As mid-term elections loom, you’re probably being deluged with political fundraising requests by mail, phone, or online. Grass-roots fundraising is great, but political donation scams abound, and even if the organization itself is legit, misappropriation is an ongoing issue with political action committees (PACs). Here are three simple steps to make sure your donations will really support the causes you believe in.

​First, be sure the organization is legit. The Federal Elections Committee (FEC) warns that many PACs aren’t what they seem. For example, Fox News talk show host Laura Ingraham has spoken out against shady PACs that ask her followers to donate to a fictitious Virginia Senate run. Fake PACs often use misleading names such as Americans for the Cure of Breast Cancer, which has raised and spent millions without any impact on medical research. Before you donate to an organization you’re not familiar with, do some online research to find out if they’re on the up-and-up.

​Second, follow the money. Misuse of PAC funds is rampant, so it’s important to verify what your money is being used for. (One scam PAC raised over $2 million, and then spent $55,000 on bobblehead dolls as its contribution to a non-existent Senate campaign) If you have any doubts about a PAC, visit OpenSecret to see how much money it raises and where the money goes.

​Third, find out if your donation is tax deductible. Donations to non-profits that lobby for legislative change, such as funding for medical research, are usually deductible. Donations to organizations that lobby for a particular candidate or campaign are not.

The Better Business Bureau has some additional advice for safer political giving:

  • Donate through the candidates’ official website or campaign office rather than giving over the phone.
  • Don’t trust caller ID to tell you who’s calling, because phone numbers can be spoofed.
  • Hang up on any pollster who says you can win a prize for participating in a political survey.
  • As always, never share personal information over the phone.

​Scam PACs pop up rapidly in election season and their fundraising tactics are pushy and sensationalistic, so it’s easy to get sucked in. You want to spend your money on causes and candidates that represent you and your values. So before making any donations this season, take a moment to verify where your money is really going and how it’s being used.

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