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Most charities are honest and ethical, but questionable solicitors are counting on the fact that you won't bother to check out the charity before you give. Here is some wise giving advice.

1. Watch out for similar names.
As there are many charities raising funds for similar cause, some charity names sound the same. Be sure to look at the name carefully, because the charity soliciting you may not be the one you have in mind.

2. Do not be pressured to make an immediate gift.
Be wary of solicitors that demand and 'on the spot' donation. Charities should welcome your gift whenever you want to send it.

3. Question vague appeals.
Appeals should clearly identify the charity's programs. Watch out for appeals that are strong on identifying a problem, but weak on describing what specifically the charity intends to do about it.

4. Do not give out personal information to phone solicitors. Don't give out credit card numbers, checking account numbers or any other personal information to unknown telephone solicitors.

5. Do not give cash nor write a check to an individual or third party.

6. Keep receipts, canceled checks and bank statements of your donations so you can document your charitable giving at tax time.

7. If you want a deduction for your donation, make sure the organization is a charity. Being a non-profit does not always mean tax deductible.

8. Don't hesitate to ask the charity for written information on its programs and finances.

9. Report bad practices to your Better Business Bureau.

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