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Don't Get Scammed in Year-End Giving

November 30, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas - Many people donate big chunks of money to their favorite causes at year's end because of the tax advantages. Scam artists know that - so they're out in full force during the holiday season.

Anyone solicited by an unfamiliar charity which sounds like it's doing good, says Jo Rosen, director of estate and asset services for the American Cancer Society, should be sure to check it out before donating.

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

Reputable charities are more than happy to give potential donors all the information they need to donate wisely, Rosen says. 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 donors' money and what portion goes to the cause they care about.

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

The American Cancer Society and others have free services to help donors understand current Internal Revenue Service rules, Rosen says. For example, she says, many older people are finding that they can give a large amount 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."

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

No matter how people plan to give during this holiday season, Rosen says, it's always best to research the organization first.

Information on ways to give is online at cancer.org. Charity information is at charitynavigator.org.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX