How to Donate Safely Online

The charity sector has seen a fundamental transition towards digital technology within the past 5 years, and the pandemic has only acted as a further catalyst for accelerating this change. 

As many charities begin to adopt the use of online donations, it’s becoming increasingly important that donors are aware of the various cyber risks that they could encounter when donating online. 

It’s no secret that online criminals can take advantage of people’s goodwill and as such, we ​recently rated National Zakat Foundation, and they have provided their top tips on how to stay safe when donating online to avoid common cyber risks. 

Research the charity 

Prior to donating, it’s important to thoroughly research the charity you’re giving your money to. This will help to ensure you’re donating safely and that the site has legitimate charitable interests. 

Firstly, look at their website for key indications that they are genuine. Their website will have their registered charity number, which you can check against the government charity register for authenticity. 

Additionally, checking the website for any real-world accreditations such as awards or certifications or even real life case studies on how they have previously spent donations, can indicate legitimacy. 

When researching you can also look at their social channels and review sites to help you to see what other people have said about the charity. Doing this research ahead of donating can help you feel comfortable and reassured that your money is going to a safe and legitimate charity. 

Donate directly through the charity’s site 

If possible, avoid third-party sites when you donate to add an extra layer of protection. 

Many charities allow you to donate directly through their site, however, for those who don’t, look for their official Just Giving or Network for Good pages. These third-party sites are trusted in the third sector and are commonly used by charities worldwide. 

However, it’s important when using these third-party sites, to ensure that you are directed to the official page through the charity’s website, as external links could lead to fake pages. 

Only donate to certified sites

SSL certificates, which are represented by a small padlock in the URL bar, are essential for sites processing transactions. Always make sure that the site you’re donating to has one of these for added financial protection. 

Cyber criminals can create fake donation sites and take your money for their own benefit. It’s easy to pretend to be someone you’re not online, so this official authentication is key to avoiding cyber risks.

Do not click on unsolicited links

If you receive a message via email, social media or text message regarding a recent donation that you have not made or are not aware of, it’s crucial that you delete the message and do not click on the link included. 

Hackers can use these links to take important information from you, such as email addresses, social media logins and credit card details. 

If you are unsure if the message is to be trusted or not, always contact the charity directly to check this was sent by them or contact your bank. 

Read the small print 

 In addition to being wary of cyber-crime, some charities and third-party sites may charge an additional fee when you donate, so just make sure you’re clear on what you’re paying money to. 

Whilst this isn’t as dangerous as other cyber risks, it’s important to read the charity’s terms and conditions before donating to ensure you aren’t giving more money than intended and you’re aware of the breakdown of costs. 

Additionally, some charities may include your transaction fee within the donation. Whilst some may not be concerned about this, for those who are obliged to donate a certain amount to charity each year, such as Zakat donations for Muslims, it’s important to check your whole donation is going to those in need, rather than being utilised as a transaction fee.  

Online donations can make a huge difference for those in need and enable fantastic organizations to continue to do the work they do. To ensure your money is going to the right place and is safe from cybercrime, it’s important to be vigilant when donating. With these tips, you can ensure that both the communities in need and the organisations are receiving the full benefit, but most importantly, that you are remaining safe whilst donating.  

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