Make the most of your charitable donations - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Make the most of your charitable donations

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

It's a longstanding trend - forty percent of charitable contributions are always made in the last forty days of the year.

But with only a few days left in 2012, Goodwill is still coming up short, and Goodwill exec Holly Cooper says she'll need your help.

"We are asking the community to come out and as they donate all of their goods, to really keep in mind that we are short of clothing as well as shoes," she says.

Better Business Bureau President Tom Bartholomy says you'll be getting a lot of appeals over the next few days. But not all are as trustworthy as Goodwill. Be especially careful of e-mail solicitations.

"Usually they're going to have a link that will take you to their website. If it says that it's from Red Cross or Salvation Army – whatever organization it's claiming it's going to be - the If you're interested in contributing to that organization, don't click on the link," Bartholomy says. "Go to directly to their website."

He also showed us a quick way to spot a scam.

"If you just hover over that link that's embedded in that email, you will see the true path that it's going to take you on, and it's not going to say Salvation Army or American Red Cross, it's going to be code," he says.

It's the tell-tale sign that if you click, you'll be in trouble.

"It will take you to a site that looks exactly like the real organization's," Bartholomy says, "but it's a spoof. They are there just to collect data from you, and most importantly, your credit card number."

Taking the time to vet real charities from fake ones is worth it though – not only can you help the needy, you can help yourself through tax deductions. Just remember to get a receipt, because Uncle Sam is getting tougher.

"Now, it's if you don't have a receipt, you're not going to be able to claim anything. They've really clamped down on that," Bartholomy says.

At Goodwill, they hand you a blank one – you are responsible for filling out the market value of your contributions.

"If you're audited, you're going to have to have something there to back up what that number is," he warns.

And you can find that something on Goodwill's website: http://www.goodwillnne.org/donate/donation-guide/

If you are looking for one last tax-deduction before year-end, the BBB offers the following advice:

•    When in doubt, check it out. When an unfamiliar organization asks you for a donation, do not give without getting details about the charity first.

•    Do not be fooled by low overhead claims. We have seen many cases where charities spend acceptable amounts on fundraising and administration, yet still fail to meet one or more of the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. When giving to charity, ask if they are accredited by the BBB. If not, ask why.

•    Think before you give. Ask for the charity's name, address, and written information on the charity's programs and finances.

•    Watch out for cases of mistaken identity. With more than one million charities in the U.S., some charity names sound alike. Be careful that the one soliciting you is the one you have in mind.

•    Know how much of your purchase goes to the charity. If something is being sold to benefit a charity, be wary of statements such as "all proceeds go to charity." Look for a disclosure that states how much will go to the charity's programs.

•    Watch out for charity fraud. Legitimate charities willingly provide written information about their programs and finances. They never insist you provide your credit card number or bank account number.

For more information, visit www.BBB.org or call 1-877-317-7236.

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