Answer Man: Be cautious with texted donations
Dear Answer Man, you seem to know everything, so let's see if you can help me with this one. When you donate money by text message, are you just asking for trouble? Does the money actually get where it's supposed to go? Are you opening the door to a bunch of junk text messages or phone calls? — A.E.
Yes, I can help because, yes, I know everything.
You're wise to ask questions about texting money. It's a weird way to donate, though charities see it as a good way to encourage a new, younger audience of potential donors to give. The donor sends a text to a short, easy to remember number and the donation of $10 or whatever is added to your next phone bill.
Seems safe enough, right? And it is, based on my legwork. The money gets where it's supposed to go and you won't get a bunch of spam texts as a result. There are few reports of scams or billing problems.
But is it efficient? Apparently it often takes a few months for your donation to be disbursed from the wireless carrier to the charitable organization. That's an eternity if you're intending the money for immediate, emergency relief. And you should take your time to know where the money is going. Texting money to the American Red Cross is a safe bet; texting it to a more nebulous "Turkey earthquake relief" organization may not be as effective.
It's almost as easy to go to a major charity's website and make a donation online — and be assured you know where the money is going , and donate whatever amount you want — but to each his own.
FYI, your wireless carrier may charge you for the text message to donate. Some do, some don't. It's not a big deal, but you might want to know if your wireless carrier is so cheap that they don't give free text messages to charities.