The holidays are right around the corner and charitable giving has always been an important part of the season. Americans donated more than $303 billion to charity last year, with a quarter of that coming between Thanksgiving and New Year's.
Charitable giving is not immune to scams. A recent report found that nearly 4000 scam websites in existence after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. How do you know if you're giving your money to a reputable charity?
The best way to check if a charity is legit is to verify it with the Better Business Bureau. For national charities you can go to the BBB's Wise Giving Alliance. They have information on more than 500 national charities.
For local charities, you can check for complaints on the Attorney General's website or through your local Better Business Bureau chapter.
Watchdog organizations like CharityNavigator.com suggest you should only give to causes that pass on at least 75 cents out of every dollar you contribute.
The experts say don't just give with your heart. Get your head involved too.