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Don't Get Scammed in Year-End Giving

December 5, 2011

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - There may be tax advantages for 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 are out in full force during the holiday season.

Jo Rosen, director of Estate and Asset Services for the American Cancer Society, urges people solicited by an unfamiliar charity to check it out before giving, even if it sounds like it is doing good work.

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

Organizations such as Charity Navigator, Guidestar and the Better Business Bureau post important information, she explains, including the percentage of donation dollars that goes to an organization's administrative costs and how much is spent on the direct services the group provides.

Reputable charities are more than happy to give people all the information they need in order to donate wisely, Rosen says. She adds that it's important to find out how charities use contributions and what portion goes to the cause the donor cares about.

"It's all public information, so any time a charity doesn't make 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 place a large amount of money in a charitable annuity, which enables them to give and receive at the same time.

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

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

Rosen advises anyone giving during this holiday season to always research the organization first.

Information on ways to give is available at http://tinyurl.com/73pbfa9. Descriptions of individual charities are available at http://charitynavigator.org.

Beth Blakeman, Public News Service - NM