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Having charitable thoughts? Give thoughtfully!

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As the year comes to a close, you might be getting lots of requests for charitable donations. If a cause tugs at your heartstrings, but the charity is unfamiliar to you, take a few minutes – and a few steps – before giving.

Research the charity. Is it a real group? Search online to learn more about its reputation. If you’re getting requests by phone, tell callers to send you information by mail. A legitimate charity will send you information in writing.

Know where your money is going. Find out what percentage of your donation goes to the charity, and whether your donation is tax-deductible.

Pay it safe. How does the charity want you to pay? Rule out anyone who asks you to send cash, wire money, or get a prepaid debit card. Chances are, that’s a scam.

If an organization doesn’t seem legit, or raises more questions than you’re comfortable with, just walk away. There are plenty of legitimate charities that can make use of a donation, if you’re in a giving mood.

Learn more about giving to charity. And please tell us if you think you spot a charity scam. Every report makes a difference.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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