Disasters, such as the South Asian tsunamis, provide con artists with prime opportunities to separate you from your money under the guise of humanitarianism.
Even some legitimate organizations aren't a good bargain: They can devote as little as 1 percent of your donation to programs and not draw the ire of federal regulators.
It's better to donate to a group you seek out rather than respond to a phone call or mailing. Find out what the group's plans are for your money and how close they are to their goal - reputable organizations won't hesitate to give you details. Doctors Without Borders, for example, says it has raised all the money it can use in its South Asia relief effort.
There are several Web sites where you can check out a charity: charitynavigator.org, charitywatch.org, guidestar.org and give.org. You may want to stick with U.S.-based groups, because U.S. regulators have no jurisdiction over international groups.
- Lorene Yue, Your Money