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Choosing a Legitimate Aid Agency for Your Donation

No matter your reason for giving this holiday season, protect yourself from scammers as you open your heart and wallet.
Many Americans have a tradition of donating to a favorite charity during the holiday season. Others will want to help victims of the typhoon in the Philippines. No matter your reason for giving, protect yourself from scammers as you open your heart and wallet.

With Thanksgiving and the holidays almost here,  it's a prime season for giving.

And this year images from the Philippines will likely touch hearts, prompting even more Americans to give to those in need.

The internet has made it easier than ever to find a charity, but putting your faith and money into a legitimate organization is a bit harder. You want to make sure you're donating to the right group. Many have similar names.

The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance reminds those who want to help those abroad -- like in the Phillippines -- to choose a charity that's experienced in international relief efforts.

A start-up group might have the best of intentions, but in situations like the typhoon's aftermath, may not have the infrastructure to carry out distribution, so many charities will prefer cash donations.

It's also crucial to do some homework to find what a charity really needs and wants. Unless they specifically cite items like clothing, don't send them. International relief efforts often prefer to get items regionally, to cut down on shipping time and costs.

And social media has become a popular vessel to drum up donations. Even if friends and connections are texting their financial support, it's important to vet it yourself, before giving.

(Karin Caifa for CNN's Consumer Watch)

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