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Don't Get Scammed in Year-End Giving

November 28, 2011

CHICAGO - There are lots of tax advantages to giving to charity and many people donate big chunks of money to their favorite causes at year's end. Scam artists know that, so they're out in full force during the holiday season.

Jo Rosen, director of estate and asset services for the American Cancer Society, says that, if you are solicited by an unfamiliar charity that sounds like it's doing good, be sure to check it out first.

"It's always good to go to their website, look them up on Charity Navigator, and actually call."

Rosen says reputable charities are more than happy to give you all the information you need to donate wisely. Also, organizations such as Charity Navigator, Guidestar and the Better Business Bureau post important information, including what percentage of donation dollars goes to administrative costs and how much is spent on direct services.

Rosen says it's important to find out how charities use your money and what portion goes to the cause you care about.

"It's all public information. So, any time a charity doesn't have that information public, I would be concerned."

Rosen says the American Cancer Society and others have free services to help donors understand current IRS rules. For example, she says, many older people are finding out that they can give a large amount of money to a charitable annuity, which enables them to give and receive at the same time.

"You're giving your money to a charity, and then, you're able to get interest back that's much higher than a CD at the bank."

Rosen says there are many ways to contribute wisely. People can always volunteer at their favorite charity. Some older people who want to leave a legacy may be able to roll over IRA contributions, tax free, to charity.

No matter how you give this holiday season, it's always best to research the organization first.

Information on charities can be found at charitynavigator.org

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL