'Tis the season for giving to family and friends, and donating to charity. But before you donate, make sure you're giving to an organization that will put your money to good use and that you're donating wisely and safely (USAToday.com Nov. 30).
The Charities Review Council, St. Paul, Minn., recommends taking these steps before making a contribution:
From the Home & Family Finance(R) Resource Center
- Verify the charity. Research the organization at the Charities Review Council website (smartgivers.org) to confirm that it's legitimate. Look at the online giving guide to find more about the organization, its mission and programs to know what your donation supports. Don't just give to an organization because it has a heart-warming story on TV.
- Beware of phony sites. Scammers often use Web addresses that are similar to official addresses of legit organizations to trick users.
- Protect confidential information. Look for "https" in the browser to make sure you're on a secure site. Never click on links in unsolicited e-mail appeals asking for confidential information such as passwords, credit card numbers, or financial account numbers. Also beware of attachments--they may contain viruses that can harm your computer.
- Observe check donation safety. If you're donating through the mail and not online, make your check payable to the charity, not to the individual collecting the donation, recommends the Better Business Bureau. Never send cash.