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Be Generous, Not Gullible - Holiday Charity Scams Abound

PHOTO: If you are going to donate money this holiday season, CharityNavigator.org can help determine if a charity is legitimate.
PHOTO: If you are going to donate money this holiday season, CharityNavigator.org can help determine if a charity is legitimate.
December 12, 2012

BOISE, Idaho - "Give now! Every dollar helps."

It's a common plea as holiday and end-of-year donations campaigns are in full swing. So, how to tell if a charity is legit or a scam?

Consumer protection attorney Beverly Salhanick's tips include investigating the charity before writing a check, and being wary of unsolicited calls and email pitches. While many requests are for money, she says, it's sometimes worth considering a different kind of donation.

"We've all seen that photograph of the New York police officer providing boots for the homeless person. Anywhere that you are in the country, there's always someone who's in need - and it may be that one little gesture that may be your charitable gift for the year."

Salhanick advises using the online tools at guidestar.org to confirm if a nonprofit is registered with the Internal Revenue Service. You can also call the Better Business Bureau to check out a charity.

If you are going to make a financial donation, Salhanick cites proven sites such as charitynavigator.org for checking out charitable groups. She also suggests a newer resource that uses social media input, greatnonprofits.org.

"It's a social comment site. It's kind of like a Yelp for charities, so you get an impression of what their position is in the community."

Idahoans are ranked as the nation’s sixth "most generous," according to a philanthropy-tracking organization. The philanthropy report is online at philanthropy.com.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID