By Paula Ebben

BOSTON (CBS) — Americans are generous people, donating more than $428 billion to charity in 2018, according to Giving USA Foundation. Jason Moon, a staff attorney at the Federal Trade Commission in Dallas, said that while most charities are legitimate, some take advantage of that generosity.

The FTC has investigated several charities over the years, including the case involving the charity Disabled Police and Sheriffs Foundation.

“This organization was claiming that it could provide grants and assistance to disabled police officers,” Moon said.

He said the group raised upwards of $9.9 million dollars, but very little went to the police officers.

To ensure your donations are reaching the right people, FTC suggests the following websites for research:

· Charity Watch

· Charity Navigator

· GuideStar

· Give

· Internal Revenue Service

Beware of scams, Moon said. If an organization pressures you to donate right away or wants you to pay by a gift card — it’s likely a scam. Some scammers may even trick you into paying them by thanking you for a donation that you never made.

If you get a robocall from a charity you’ve never heard of, Moon said it’s likely illegal.

“The telemarketing and sales rule makes it illegal to send a robocall out asking for charitable donations — unless the person who is receiving it already has donated to the organization,” he said.

Moon advised researching crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe before you donate. Also, know that your donation to a site like GoFundMe may not be tax deductible.

The FTC has received more than 2,400 charity-related complaints this year, but Moon said it’s only the tip of the iceberg. He encourages people to complain to the FTC, the BBB and the state attorney general’s office if you suspect a scam.

Paula Ebben

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