Many people look to give around the holidays. Don’t let your generosity end up in the wrong hands.

Phone calls, phishing emails, and fake websites are the primary method of collection, but some scammers are bold enough to solicit door to door or arrange for in home pick up of donated goods.

Avoid responding to cold call solicitations or door-to-door collections.

Consumers should always do their homework on any charity they are considering supporting.

Know who you are giving to and how they plan to use your donation. Charitynavigator.org is a great resource.

Go Fund Me and other crowd funding sites are also used by fraudsters to scam generous people out of their money. Just like with more established charities it is always best to know where you are giving and who the funds will benefit.

Red flags:

The person tells you how urgent the need is and offers to send someone to pick up your donation.

Your request for material about the charity is either ignored or the person hangs up on you.

There is no information about how the money is going to be used.

The request is for cash donations only.

Or you are asked to send a donation by wire transfer or a third party payment web site. While these payment methods may be used by charities, it’s up to you to make sure the charity requesting the donation is legitimate.

The approach is through a spam email.

Things to do and questions to ask:

How will your donation aid victims of the event?

Ask if the caller is a 3rd party fundraiser? If so what percentage of the donation goes to the charity?

How much of the donation will be used for administrative costs?

Is the organization tax exempt?

Do not give out credit card or bank information until you have established the legitimacy of the organization.

Do not give cash.

Do not buy items from telemarketers who promise that the proceeds are going to help the those in need. Instead, give directly to a charity and cut out the middle man.

Take a very careful look at the name of the charity. There are “look alike” names that are similar to well known charities. If you aren’t sure of a name, look it up on the internet or in a phone book.

In addition, there are “look alike” web addresses that may be one letter different from a legitimate charity, or a letter may be transposed in the web address.

Be forewarned, check out any request for donations. While you may be eager to help people in need, take the time to make sure your donation will really help, not just line the pockets of a crook. It’s up to each of us to make sure our donations are used wisely.

To find charities that provide assistance to people in need go to:

http://www.charitynavigator.org

http://www.bbb.org/us/charity/

http://www.charitywatch.org/