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There are many worthwhile charities in need of your contributions, but with so many charities soliciting, here are a few tips to avoid scams:

  • Do not contribute cash. All contributions should be in the form of a check or money order made out to the charity—never to the individual soliciting the donation.

  • Ask for written descriptions of the charity's programs and/or finances.

  • Don’t allow yourself to be pressured to donate immediately. Wait until you are sure that the charity is legitimate and deserving of a donation.

  • Don’t be misled by a charity that resembles or mimics the name of a well-known organization—all charities should be checked out.

Before giving, check on all charities with the local charity registration office (usually a division of the state attorney's general office) and with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The director of the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, Bennett Weiner, says to consider all appeals carefully and choose an organization that has a proven track record.

While opening your wallet and giving from your heart is important, be sure to use your head to avoid becoming a victim of a charity scam.