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December 19, 2005

Albany - Before you give to a charity this Christmas, make sure it's legit. Scam artists prey on generous people this time of year. It's easy to get swindled if you don't ask the right questions. Also, other legitimate charities don't always give all the money you donate to the cause.

Each Christmas, some south Georgia cops take a break from fighting crime to shop.

"This year we're looking at helping at least 25 kids," Lt. Tracey Barnes.

The Shop with a Cop charity allows less fortunate kids to go on a shopping spree with a cop. The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge Two raises thousands of dollars for the Shop with a Cop program. The FOP hires a consulting firm to make phone calls and collect donations, because state law prohibits law enforcement agencies from soliciting money. But before writing that check, make sure you're giving to the right group.

"They'll tell you its with the shop with the cop program here," said Lt. Barnes. "If you have any questions, by all means, call the Albany Police Department. We' can verify it for you."

The consulting firm gets 40% of your donation, with the 60% going towards the charity. That's the case with other charities too. To make sure the charity is legit and to find out just how much of your donation goes to the people in need, ask the right questions.

What is the exact purpose of the charity?
Who is in charge? Get specific names and a phone number where the charity can be reached.
Is the person seeking donations a paid employee or a volunteer?
What percentage of your contribution will the charity receive?
Will the money donated be used in Georgia and, if so, in the city in which you live?
Is the organization registered with the Secretary of State?

All charities must be registered with the Secretary of State's office. When in doubt, check with that office before making a donation. It is better to give than to receive, unless you're giving to a scam artist.

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