Watch out for charity scams when giving end-of-year donations

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Along with your last-minute holiday shopping, you may be giving a last-minute donation to charity and it's important to keep an eye out for scammers.

According to Charity Navigator, Americans donated more than $400 billion to charity last year, and donations have gone up every year for the past decade.

"This time of year is a time when we’re often hearing from consumers about charity scams," said Betsy DeNardi, Director of the Indiana Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division.

Denardi suggests you use a website like Charity Navigator or the BBB's website Give.org to research a charity and make sure it's legitimate, and that your donation will go to a good cause.

"There are more people out there trying to scam individuals because now is a better opportunity than maybe other times," DeNardi said of the holidays.

December is also National Car Donation Month, a time when many people hand over their cars to charities. DeNardi said that's even more reason to research before you gift.

The end of the year is always a big time for charities, and experts say there's no reason to change your giving before January 1, but you may not be deducting donations from your taxes as usual either.

"I think it’s something that a lot of people aren’t aware of until they do their taxes. I don’t think they’ll realize it," said Justin Castelli, owner of RLS Wealth Management in Fishers.

Castelli makes his living advising clients, including through his online show All About Your Benjamins. He said the overhaul of the tax code means more people will not itemize their taxes in 2019, since the standard deduction has doubled. That means you probably won't see a line item with charitable donations on it.

"I’m (of) the belief that most people are donating out of the kindness of their heart, so I don’t think it will impact the actual giving to the charities, but I think the strategies and how it happens may change going forward from a planning standpoint," Castelli said.

If you give more, you should consult with an expert about changes you could make, like bundling, to get more out of your donation.

As for what you get back, Castelli said the changes shouldn't deter you from giving and you'll still get the benefits: as will the charities that count on your donations each year.

"I really do think that most people will continue to give as they always have," Castelli said.

If you do run across a charity scam, report it to the Better Business Bureau and Indiana Attorney General's Office, even if you don't fall for it.

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