How to avoid Ukraine charity scams: Trust nothing, click nothing

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Marcelle Hutchins

A keyboard key is colored with a Ukraine flag and “donate” text. Photo by Shutterstock.

Many people worldwide want to help Ukraine — by donating money and supplies — as the conflict with Russia continues. But there are scammers to watch out for, as usual. 

Be careful about any phone calls and text messages that are appealing to your generosity, including ones claiming to be from your bank, says Michelle Singletary, personal finance columnist for the Washington Post. 

Scammers are now taking over people’s social media accounts, then direct-messaging their friends. “You click a link and next thing you know, they've taken over one of your accounts, or created a fake account pretending to be you, then friend your friends. And because it appears it's from you, they trust it,” she explains. 

Email accounts can be taken over too. “Dear friend of mine, her email got compromised, and they were able to send an email. … I was communicating, thinking it was my friend. But the moment they asked for money, I knew it wasn't her. … Four of her friends thought it was her, and sent the scammers about $1,000, so about $250 each of them.”

What about renting an Airbnb belonging to a Ukrainian as a way to send money — but not actually staying at their home? Do your due diligence and check if it’s an established host with comments/reviews, she says. 

Which charities are most directly sending money to Ukrainians? The Red Cross and any that’s related to the United Nations, Singletary identifies. 

Charity Navigator and Better Business Bureau also vet philanthropic groups.

Singletary’s bottom line: Trust nothing, trust no one. She says if her husband texts her, she’ll call him to check if he truly sent that message.  

“I cannot emphasize enough, folks. Don't click on any links and anything that you receive, even if you think it's from a legitimate charity that maybe you've got a relationship with. Don't click from that email. Get out of that email, go to that charity's website. ... Be super paranoid. Don't click anything, [even] if it's from your mama … [or] from your boo.”