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Beware of charity scams as your prepare to make donations

’Tis the season to give, and also the season to get taken. Thieves are ready to profit from your generosity. To make sure your gift goes where you want it to, consumersafety.org provides a few tips for smart giving:

Avoid scams

If you receive an email from a charity you are unfamiliar with, don’t open any links or attachments. Legitimate charities rarely use email attachments, preferring to direct you to their website. Scammers, however, may embed viruses into links or attachments. If you are interested in learning more about the charity, search for the charity’s authorized website.

Don’t send money overseas or wire cash

Even if your charitable donation is intended to help a foreign country, no legitimate charity will ask you to send money to a foreign bank account. You should also be wary of charities asking for a wired cash transaction. Cash is easy to steal and hard to track.

If a phone or in-person solicitor seems pushy or demands an immediate decision, be wary. Quiz the person on the charity’s missions, the way it spends its contributions, and ask for proof that the donation is tax-deductible.

Before making an online donation, look at the URL, check for a privacy policy and make sure the site uses encryption technology. Does the charity’s Web page start with https? If it does, the site is secure — the “s” stands for security. If the charity’s website does not have a privacy policy or use encryption technology, think twice about donating, as your personal information could be sold off to the highest bidder.

Research

the charity

Use third-party resources like Charity Navigator, GuideStar and Give.org to research the charity’s mission, how it runs, its effectiveness and the way it spends its finances.

The Federal Trade Commission has a helpful charity checklist with questions to ask and research to do on the organization before making a charitable contribution.

Never give personal information

Be wary of the charity that asks for your Social Security number. Even a charity asking for your bank account should be scrutinized. With the option of using a credit and debit card, there is no reason that a charitable organization would need to draw directly from your bank account.

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