Iowans who want to donate to Ukrainian relief efforts need to make sure those donations are actually going to help people in need and not to a crook.

AARP Iowa state director Brad Anderson says when it comes to fraud, vigilance is our number-one weapon. First, Anderson says to be wary of how you’re being asked to donate. “They will urge you to pay through a payment app, an online app, or even gift cards. That’s an immediate red flag,” Anderson says. “Anytime that you’re seeing an outside organization pressure you into contributing, that’s also a red flag.”

Sending cash or a personal check in the mail is a potentially risky venture, but Anderson says using plastic can be iffy, too, so choose your payment option wisely. “Use a credit card as opposed to a debit card,” Anderson says, “because if you do use a credit card and the organization or the person you’re trying to pay is identified as fraudulent, then you’ll get that money back, but if you use a debit card, that’s connected directly to your bank account and you won’t be able to get that money back.”

Some charities might spend more money paying their executives than on the cause they claim to support. Anderson suggests plugging the charity’s name into one of two websites: or

“The websites that we’ve identified do allow contributors to know exactly where that money is going and insure that the money is going to the people who need it,” Anderson says, “and not towards exorbitant administrative costs or potentially other causes that aren’t the ones that they’re trying to support.” Bogus charities often use names similar to existing charities to legitimize themselves, so double-check before you double-click.