Planning to donate for the holidays? Here’s how to make sure you don’t get scammed

(Photo: Pixabay via MGN Online)

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - 2016 marked the fifth year for "Giving Tuesday” - a day where folks around the world are encouraged to share the wealth and think about others during the holidays.

But with so many charities out there, and so many solicitations for money jamming your inbox, how do you separate real charities from real scams?

A good place to start is the Better Business Bureau’s dedicated arm for charities called The Wise Giving Alliance.

Their first bit of advice: Know what cause you believe in and decide who you want to help before you're swayed by solicitations.

“There are more than 1.3 million charities in the US,” says BBB Wise Giving Alliance CEO, Art Taylor, “and you are the first line of defense against unscrupulous charities.”

Every year, Taylor’s staff rigorously vets thousands of charities, especially as more Americans look to days like "Giving Tuesday."

But when websites can be made to look credible, how is a person to discern between a legitimate charity and one that may not be?

“It’s very difficult,” says Taylor. “But one way of doing it is not to rely on the link you get in the mail.”

Taylor says Google the name of the charity and see what comes up.

“If you do the search yourself, you're more likely to get the right organization and not one that might be sent to you by some spammer."

And he says be cautious of being asked to give on crowdfunding sites. While they may be legit, he says those aren't really charities and there's no way of knowing what's real and what's not.

Best bet: Follow your instincts.

“Don’t feel pressured to make an immediate gift,” says Taylor. “As much as we'd like to see you give on “Giving Tuesday,” if you give on Wednesday the charity will appreciate it just as much."

The Better Business Bureau offers its Wise Giving Guide, in hardcopy and online. If you’d like a paper version, you can call 703-247-934 and they’ll send one to you free of charge. Or you can visit their website at where you’ll find it electronically along with other tips for giving this holiday season.

The BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance has vetted thousands of organizations against 20 credible standards - so you'll know who's trustworthy and doing legitimate work.

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