Make Sure The Charity Your Donation Goes To Is Legitimate

Seeing a tragedy like the tsunami disaster unfold makes many of us want to help in any way we can. But before you sign that check, make sure the charity you're donating to is legitimate.

The images we see on television are hard to ignore, so many people in need. Disasters like the tsunami in Southeast Asia have prompted many Americans to make donations to the relief effort. But how do you know if the organization that calls on you for a donation is legitimate, and not trying to rip you off?

"You just have to pay attention to what you're supporting, and what it is that you believe in and make sure that agency is doing what you would want done with your money. Just know the organization that you're donating to. Go by their office. If they're not local, go to their website, go on the internet and check it out." says Glenna Harkness with the Deep East Texas office of the American Red Cross.

Also, the Better Business Bureau can provide insight as to whether or not a charity meets their standards.

"The Better Business Bureau has a group of twenty standards that we measure charities against, and this is based upon information that's developed through investigation as well as information that's provided by the charities themselves, and we determine from that investigation and analyses what we consider to be a satisfactory level of performance." says BBB President Larry Lightfoot.

Here's some advice from the better business bureau to help you from possibly getting ripped off:

Be wary of any charity that is inexperienced in carrying out relief efforts.

If you contribute... do not send cash. Make your check out to the name of the organization... not an individual's name.

Watch out for excessive pressure of on the spot donations. Legitimate charities will be glad to wait for you.

Don't give out your credit card number or other personal information to a telephone solicitor, or in response to an e-mail solicitation.

Finally, if you have any doubts, log on to That's the website for the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance. The reports produced by the Alliance specify if the charity meets standards set by the Bureau.

You can also go the BBB website at