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Before you donate to help hurricane communities, make sure the charity is trustworthy

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Before you reach into your wallet to help people in the latest hurricane, keep in mind that some charities may not spend your money the way you want. In fact, some so-called charities may not be charities at all.

If you already support a reputable charity that you know checks out - that's a good place to start. But if you're not sure where to give, Charity Navitagor's Larry Lieberman has this reminder:

"Your giving, in response to a disaster, is like you're investing in that community. If you get a phone call, an email, a letter from an organization you don't know anything about, well just pause," Leiberman said.

CharityNavigator,org is the non-profit website I frequently tell you about that checks out charities and rates them, based on how they spend your charity investment.

When you're on the charity navigator home page, find the "Hot Topics" tab at top of the page. That's a list of current events and issues attracting charity donations. Right now hurricane Michael tops the list.

Click on that to find the most up-to-date list of top-rated charities that let you make a designated donation.

"What that simply means is that when you make a donation to these organizations, you can designate that your money go to relieve the hardship created by Hurricane Michael and not to anything else," Leiberman explained.

Three other website to check are CharityWatch.org, Give.org and the Washington Secretary of State Charities page.

And remember, anytime people's lives are devastated by any natural disaster they're going to need help for months, and even years after disaster strikes. So always take time to find out exactly where your money will go. There's no need to rush.

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