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Beware Grinches After Your Charity Donations

December 7, 2010

LAS VEGAS - The season for charitable giving is in high gear, and local legal experts say it's also time to watch out for Grinches, in the form of scammers after your donation dollars.

Nevadans who spend time on the computer are probably already familiar with those fake messages that appear to be from a bank, but are really "phishing" schemes aimed at individuals' wallets. Las Vegas attorney Beverly Salhanick says the same trick can happen with donation requests from what seem, at first glance, like big-name nonprofits.

"You don't want be giving to somebody who is a sound-alike - you get to the wrong site, you do a donation online, and the organization that you really want to be good to, never gets the benefit of your good nature."

Salhanick says it pays to take a moment to check out the charity before you send in your check. You can contact the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance to confirm that a charity is legitimate. She also recommends the website www.CharityNavigator.org.

If you're not so Web-savvy, simply ask callers to mail you printed material. Salhanick says most scammers won't go to that trouble.

"If they're simply calling you, or if they sent you an email with a link, those are very cheap and easy to do. Printed material is more a sign of somebody who is legitimate."

In these tough economic times, many Nevadans have chosen to give by volunteering. Salhanick says it's a strategy that can save money in more ways than one.

"One of the things that volunteering can do is, it lets you check out the nonprofits that you want to give to. Are they doing the work that they say that they are doing? It lets you see what is going on behind the scenes, as well as providing an immediate benefit to the organization."

Learn more about local volunteer opportunities from the United Way of Southern Nevada's Volunteer Center website, www.volunteercentersn.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV