It’s the season of giving and for criminals, it is a prime opportunity to take advantage of the generosity often found this time of year. Not only do the scammers take money from those who give, they also take away funds that could be given to legitimate charities to help people in need.
So how can you make sure your dollars are going to the people who need it most?
Have a giving plan. Many times, criminals can thrive because people don’t really have a system or discipline in place to manage their charitable giving. They give on an ad hoc basis, often on impulse, and with no research into the organization.
Research your charities. Be sure to do your due diligence. If a charity wants your money, you are absolutely justified in investigating it. How reputable are they? How efficient are they? Does 95 percent or more of your donation actually make it to those who need it? Or does the charity have an unreasonable amount of overhead? How much does the executive director make? Is it reasonable for a charity of that size? One resource you can use to start investigating a charity is CharityNavigator.org.
Determine a charitable giving budget and stick to it. You know what you can afford. Don’t go over that budget – at least not on impulse. Give with your heart – but use your head.
Don’t give on the street. Many street collectors are scammers. Make sure those collecting the money are doing so for a reputable organization.
Get a receipt. Legitimate charities can give you a receipt, which you can use to take a tax deduction. If you take the tax deduction, you can give more. No receipt? No deal.
Ensure the charity is a legitimate 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. To get the official IRS list, download Publication 78 from the Internal Revenue Service at IRS.gov.
It’s not enough just to give. Without taking time to educate yourself, the money you give might not benefit anyone but crooks, leaving out those you wanted to help.