(COLORADO SPRINGS) — With the holiday charitable season underway and many Coloradans opening up their wallets and hearts to help those in need, the Secretary of State is offering tips for donating wisely, so you and your family don’t have your generosity taken advantage of.

“Coloradans have shown time and again that they support organizations doing important work to make our state an even better place to live,” said Secretary of State Jena Griswold. “This generosity is so inspiring, and it’s important that Coloradans have the tools to make smart giving decisions.”

To ensure the security of every dollar donated to charitable causes, the Secretary of State’s Office has constructed a list of tips to help people navigate charitable giving. Griswold’s office said more than 14,000 charities are registered with the Secretary of State, making ColoradoSOS.gov a valuable resource for those looking to research charitable organizations.

Some things to keep in mind during the holiday giving season include:

  • When giving to a charity, it’s important to confirm the organization is registered and current at checkthecharity.com.
  • When receiving solicitation calls, ask if the caller is a paid solicitor, and if so, ask for their name and the name of their company, the paid solicitor’s registration number, and the percent of your donation that will go to charity. If they refuse to give you any of this information, do not give to that charity.
  • Make a note of the representations made regarding how your donation would be used, e.g. what charitable purposes or programs would benefit and whether or not anyone will benefit locally. Call the charity itself to confirm the details of the solicitation and any local benefits.
  • Watch out for charities with names that sound similar to well-known, reputable organizations. Sometimes these sound-alike names are simply intended to confuse donors.
  • Be careful to not click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer.
  • Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media have already been vetted.
  • Ask whether the charitable contribution is tax-deductible, and verify with your tax advisor or the IRS. The fact that a charity has a tax identification number does not necessarily mean your contribution is tax-deductible. Ask for a receipt showing the amount of the contribution and stating that it is tax-deductible.
  • Be wary if a charity fails to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, and finances and how the donation will be used. Reputable charities will gladly provide the information requested.
  • There is no need to give on the spot, whether to a telemarketer or door-to-door solicitor. If you feel pressured or uncomfortable, just say, “No, thank you” and hang up.
  • Do not pay in cash. Donate by check made payable to the charity or use the charity’s website to donate by credit card.

What to do if you believe you may have been solicited by a fraudulent charity:

If you think a charitable organization may be fraudulently collecting money, you can file a complaint with the Secretary of State or the Attorney General.

Don’t let the malicious intentions of scammers stop you from donating to causes you care about. Be mindful and vigilant, and give generously this holiday season.