How to give to charity without getting taken

This is the time of year when many of us want to give to those in need. But, how do you know what is needed, and if your donation is going for a legitimate purpose or to a legitimate organization? 

There are so many great charities who really need help this time of year. But, if you are not sure of who to support and how to donate, one of the best ways to learn is by contacting the organization at a number that you know is legitimate, and ask them what is needed and how it will be distributed or used. Most often, charities will be requesting monetary donations, but some will happily accept new, unwrapped gifts. If you are planning to donate money, it may be best to pay with a check or a credit card for tracking purposes. However, if you are not familiar with the charity, you may want to check them out first with sources such as Charity Navigator, Guidestar or the Better Business Bureau’s wise giving.

There are a lot of legitimate, local causes. But, before you donate, check things out with local officials, businesses or other organizations that may be aware of their efforts. They might also be able to tip you off to a possible scam.

If you suspect a problem, contact local law enforcement and consumer agencies to alert them of a potential problem and to file a report. Even though it may be difficult to get your donation back, your information could help others from falling victim to a scam. 

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