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Ask Kim

How to Avoid Charity Scams

Several Web sites make it easy to check whether a charity is legitimate and to find reputable ones that are doing similar work.

I received a phone call asking for money from a charity that says it’s helping people who lost homes in recent storms. How do I know if this charity is legitimate? --J.C., Boston

See Also: How to Measure the Impact of Your Charitable Donations

Don’t pledge money to an unknown charity over the phone or click on a link in an e-mail. Scam artists make phone calls, send e-mails and create fake Web sites posing as charities, and they often use news stories about recent disasters as their hook. Some crooks won’t just steal your money; if they get your credit card number, bank information or Social Security number, they could steal your identity.

Several Web sites make it easy to check whether a charity is legitimate and to find reputable ones that are doing similar work. Most of these sites also analyze charities’ financial situations and rate their effectiveness. Check out CharityNavigator.org, the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (www.give.org), CharityWatch.org and GiveWell.org.

Got a question? Ask Kim at askkim@kiplinger.com.