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Twenty five percent of all charitable giving is done during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. While many of us use this time to give back and take advangtage of tax write offs, others utilize this time to scam unsuspecting do-gooders and exploit the kindness in all of us.

The Federal Trade Commission says it received 1.33 million complaints alone in 2009, including 3,474 complaints specifically about charity fraud. Although making donations to a worthy cause is a honorable thing to do, it’s important to make sure the charity you are giving to is actually legitimate. One of the keys to protecting yourself is to do a little research and due diligence before you donate.

1.  Visit www.charitynavigator.org to find more information on the organization you plan on donating to. Charity Navigator rates organizations based on detailed information from the mission statement to the organization’s financial strength and CEO’s salary. Over 5,500 charities are profiled and filtered by categories such as subject, city, state, etc.

2.  Be aware of fraudulent emails seeking donations. Most charities will not solicit you this way, unless you are a previous donor or have signed up for their email list.

3.  Beware of solicitors who go door to door. If there is a legitimate way to support an organization there is never a reason to feel pressured to give on the spot. Most recently, there have been reports of door to door solicitors actually using the donations as a way to “case” homes for future robberies.

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