Be Charitable This Holiday Season, but Sensible and Safe Too

It’s a wonderful time of the year to be charitable. And that makes it a great time to go over some tips on how to donate to those less fortunate while keeping your identities and bank accounts safe.

Unfortunately, depending on how you donate, those in need may never see the effects of your goodwill. That’s because criminal organizations pose as charities in order to steal credit card numbers and other personal information, especially during times when they know people are feeling generous, such as around the holidays.

There are things you can do to help ensure your donation goes where it will do the most good. Here are three:

  1. Find out as much as you can about the charity.
    In its 2012 Holiday Giving Poll, the American Red Cross found that 46 percent of survey participants consider a friend’s endorsement to be the most trustworthy source of information about charities. However, you really want to investigate a charity yourself if you’re considering donating to it. Find out how much of your donation will go to those in need rather than to administrative costs and salaries. You can do some research through the Better Business Bureau or Charity Navigator. Also check the organization’s own website, as well as any news reports you can find.
  2. Be careful where you click when donating online.
    Only 11 percent of participants in the Holiday Giving Poll consider social media to be a trustworthy source of information about charities. It’s smart to be wary of donation requests from a Facebook page or Twitter post. Clicking on a social media link or a link from an email could lead you into a scam and down the road to identity theft. To donate online, type in the charity’s URL carefully. A typo in the URL could lead you to an imposter site run by criminals. Also ensure the URL on the donation page begins with “https,” indicating a secure site, rather than “http.”
  3. If someone asks for a piece of your life, think twice before giving it.
    In an ideal world, we could give our credit card numbers out over the phone or to someone who comes to the door collecting donations. It feels good be generous, after all. However, you can’t be sure these people really represent the organization they say they do. Plus, donating over the phone decreases the amount you give – that call center agent has to be paid. So instead of donating over the phone or at the door, ask the solicitor for information about the charity, such as its website, so you can research it and donate later, if you like. Don’t be pressured into giving now in order to be entered into a drawing or other giveaway.

With a little research and caution, donating this holiday season will benefit those in need and help keep you safe at the same time. Enjoy the holidays!

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Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance.

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