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Helping storm victims: Make sure you know where your donation is going

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Clark Howard Staff, Clark.com

With so many people affected the recent severe weather, you may be like millions of other Americans who want to do what you can to help. But how do you make sure that your hard-earned money will get to the folks who really need it?

Read more: Year-end giving that also gives YOU a tax write off

Here are some more important tips to keep in mind when donating

Before donating to any charity, you want to be sure that the lion’s share of the money will go where it’s needed. Every charity has different overhead costs. You can research you favorite charities and learn how much of your donation will go to the intended purpose (vs. how much will go to overhead) at Give.orgCharityWatch.org and CharityNavigator.org.

You should also keep the following in mind:

  • Don’t feel pressured to give cash. Legitimate charities will take a check.
  • Don’t give credit card, bank account or personal information to telemarketers. If you want to donate, initiate the call yourself.
  • Don’t give out your Social Security number!
  • Don’t give to Internet appeals if the cause does not look legitimate and doesn’t check out. Traditional frauds have gone electronic in recent years, giving con artists easy access to thousands of potential victims.
  • Don’t give in to pressure. Anyone that can’t wait for a donation while you check out his or her organization is likely to be a crook.
  • Donating an old vehicle? Be aware of special considerations.
  • Expect specific information. Ask what kind of relief this organization is going to provide. Don’t give to a vague appeal.
  • Check out the charity with national, state and local authorities. Established charities register with the Internal Revenue Service. You can search for specific non-profit organizations at IRS.gov.
  • Beware of newly formed organizations. If the charity is new, you may have to rely on your relationship with the company or sponsor of the organization to determine whether you trust the group.
  • Report abuses to the nearest Better Business Bureau and the State Attorney General’s office. Both are listed in local telephone directories. You can also report abuses to the National Fraud Information Center at (800) 876-7060. NFIC also has a web-based complaint form at Fraud.org.

Remember, do give! The reality is scammers are out there. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be generous. With the sites listed above that vet various charities, you can give with confidence.

Read more: 7 senior scams and how to combat them

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