Before giving to a charity consider these tips

John North, Dayton Better Business Bureau president. CONTRIBUTED

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John North, Dayton Better Business Bureau president. CONTRIBUTED

As the holidays approach, giving season begins. BBB encourages you to give back, but give smart. Do your research before you give. By finding out as much as you can about charities, you can avoid fraudsters trying to take advantage of the giving season.

Today, charities and fundraisers use a variety of channels to solicit funding, including the phone, face-to-face contact, e-mail and the internet. Many charities increase the volume of requests during the last quarter of the year, making this the prime time for scammers.

Better Business Bureau offers these tips to help you steer clear of charity fraudsters:

• Identify a cause important to you and align your donations with charitable missions that match your interests.

• Learn all you can about a charity before donating. Ask for the name, address, telephone number and even an annual report. Verify the charity is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) public charity.

• Ask phone solicitors if they work for third-party telemarketing companies, which may keep a sizeable portion of your gift.

• Remember scammers often pose as legitimate charities. They use similar-sounding names and create official-looking websites.

• Donate directly to the charity. Never send cash donations or wire money to a private individual.

• Be wary of emotional appeals. Some might bring tears to your eyes, but they will not inform you on how your donation will be used.

• Determine whether the charity’s website is secure and it has a privacy policy concerning the use of your name, e-mail address or other personal facts before making online donations.

• Never give out your personal information, including your bank account, credit card or social security number.

• Keep records of your donations with receipts, canceled checks and bank statements to document your charitable giving at tax time.

• Do not feel pressured to give on the spot. You can give to a charity year-round.

• Check with BBB to find charity reports ensuring the charity is transparent and accountable. Visit bbb.org or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

If you do not feel comfortable giving money, consider volunteering your time or donating items like clothing, canned goods or toys. You can also research charities by turning to the Attorney General’s office, guidestar.org and charitynavigator.org. The more you know, the more confident you’ll feel your money is being used wisely.

John North is president of the Dayton Better Business Bureau.

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