Non-profit soliciting electronic donations could put you at risk for identity theft

If you've seen a pink plastic bag hanging on your mailbox asking for donations of clothes and electronics, you might may want to think twice before giving.
If you've seen a pink plastic bag hanging on your mailbox asking for donations of clothes and electronics, you might may want to think twice before giving.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)- If you’ve seen a pink plastic bag hanging on your mailbox asking for donations of clothes and electronics, you might may want to think twice before giving. Several months ago, NewsChannel 6 investigated where the donations go. Now, a cybersecurity expert has concerns about giving away electronics because there are risks.

NSPIRE Outreach is the charity behind the bags. They’re based in Atlanta, but they’ve solicited donations with pink bags at homes across the Southeast and even as far away as Indiana. But the Better Business Bureau says to be wary of donating to them. The charity did not provide any financial information this year, so the BBB is not able to verify how donations are used.

Pink bags like this have been popping up across the country for years, asking for donations of clothing and electronics to go to victims of domestic abuse. Seems like an innocent request, but when cybersecurity expert Jon Creekmore saw one on his mailbox, he had lots of questions.

“very quickly there were several things that didn’t quite add up,” Creekmore said.

He was concerned that the company’s name did not match their website and that the phone number wasn’t local. The image on the bag looks similar to local women’s shelter Hope House, but they are not related.

“One of the greatest things that did concern me, being that I do cyber-security professionally, was that they were requesting people to just blindly donate electronics,” Creekmore said.

He says donating old electronics can put you at risk for identity theft.

“And somebody would collect this, and you know, if it does go and get resold, then now your information and getting resold into the market,” he said.

We reached out to Pastor Gregg Kennard of NSPIRE Outreach. He says that’s exactly what they do with the electronics. He says they use clothing donations in their shelter, but they sell the extra clothing and electronics to fund it. He says it brings in about  $300,000 a year, but he also says they rarely get things like old phones and computers.

But he does not know if they are wiped before they are resold.

“It’s not very common today that charitable organizations solicit for removable media, cell phones, electronics, computers, tablets because they understand that with cyber security risk on the rise, and identity [theft] becoming a very common place that even through this may be a non-profit, legitimate charitable organization, they could be making themselves target too for of course crime,” Creekmore said.

Creekmore says if you do want to donate your old electronics or computers to a charity, it’s best to find a reputable charity that does it for you.

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