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Ensure your charitable donations go to right place, watch for scams

This week we were reminded how vulnerable we can be even doing the things that make us who we are, such as accomplishing a goal like running a marathon. People from all over the world were in Boston on Monday to compete, support and be part of a great and traditional event. Instead, the memories will now forever be those of tragedy after the explosions near the finish line hurt runners, bystanders and volunteers. Now, it’s time for us as a nation to step up and help our grieving neighbors. But how do you make sure the monetary help you’re willing to give doesn’t fall prey to scammers?

Do your research:

Examine how exactly you are able to help. If giving a monetary donation is an option, find out what organizations are out there. Long-established relief effort organizations will most likely provide the most peace of mind in that your money will reach their destination. Find out how your donation will help by researching exactly where the money goes.

For example, the American Red Cross will distribute financial support to provide mental, health and spiritual health for those affected. And they are, of course, looking for blood donations to make sure they can provide adequate care for the community in Boston who had to dip into their resources to treat the more than 100 victims affected by Monday’s events.

Find a trustworthy charity:

Scammers waste no time in setting up fake charities with a creation of a Facebook page or website. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December, bogus charities popped up claiming to raise money for victims.

One woman even faced criminal charges after she claimed her nephew was one of the victims. To know if a charity is legit, the Arizona Attorney General’s office recommends using sites such as charitynavigator.com. You can also take a look at charity ratings by contacting the Better Business Bureau or the American Institute of Philanthropy.

Once you find a charity, look for key pointers:
Charitable organizations should have a clear mission statement and should dedicate the majority of proceeds to benefit that charity. Beware of charities that use donations to pay for salaries or fundraise. In Arizona, charities must be registered with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office and should have a tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office also reminds us to be skeptical of people representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations. Do not give your credit card or banking information to anyone until you research it thoroughly and trust it. This is the time to join our fellow Americans who are in grief.

There are also other ways to help out, such as donating your time or fighting for a cause with local authorities or raising awareness for an issue. Overall, the feeling of being brothers and sisters extends even further than our capabilities to reach into our wallets. It’s about solidarity and patriotism.