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Know how to spot fake charities. Charity scams often use names that are very close to the names of real charities, non profits or even law enforcement agencies. If you want to donate, contact the real charity or organization at a website or phone number you know to be valid.

Decide who you want to give to. Instead of responding to solicitations to make a donation, especially from telemarketers who may keep as much as 90 percent of the money they collect, decide which charities you want to support and contact them directly. If you’re giving to relief efforts here in North Carolina, consider giving to groups you already know do good work in your community.

Do your research.

Stick with established charities. Brand new charities often pop up after natural disasters. Some may be legitimate, but others may be scams or just too poorly organized to be effective. In general it’s best to give to charities with an established track record for using donations wisely.

Be wary of any charity that won’t answer your questions. If someone refuses to answer questions about how they will use your donation, it may be a scam. If you’re not sure, check out the charity by calling the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Office at 1 888 830 4989.

Don’t respond to unsolicited emails and text messages asking you to give. Even if the message looks legitimate, it could be a phishing scam. These messages may include links to websites that look legitimate but are really set up to trick you into donating.

Avoid pushy telemarketers. Telemarketers that refuse to answer your questions,
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offer to pick up your donation or pressure you are usually up to no good. Also, some telemarketers keep up to 90 percent of the money they collect for charities. Your money will go further if you give directly to the real charity, not to hired fundraisers.

Be careful about donating through social media posts. The cause may sound worthy, but verify how the money is going to be used before you give.

Consider crowdfunding requests very carefully. Crowdfunding sites allow people to raise money for causes and projects online, but they can be misused by scammers. Make sure you know who you’re donating to and how the funds will be used, and ask how much of your donation would go to the crowdfunding site instead of the cause.

Don’t give cash. Cash gifts can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it’s best to pay by credit card. If you pay by check, make it out to the charity itself, not the fundraiser.

Protect your personal information. Never give your credit card or bank account number to someone you don’t know who contacts you for any reason. If someone calls you asking for a credit card, bank account or Social Security number,
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avoid giving to them. It could be a scam.

About the Author

Ralph Lauren