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FTC: Donating to Boston victims? Check charity credentials first.

The Federal Trade Commission has cautioned consumers to double-check the credentials of charities claiming to support victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

“After the bombing at the Boston Marathon, many people are looking for ways to help, like donating to a charity or fund,” said FTC Consumer Education Specialist Colleen Tressler in a blog post. Yet there are worries that scammers will convince people to donate to fake charities.

The agency said consumers should take the following steps before donating:

●If you receive a phone solicitation for a donation, ask for the name of the charity if the person calling does not tell you right away.

●Ask how much of your donation will go to support the cause directly.

●Before you provide any credit card or bank information, review information on the charity. For example, the FTC recommends doing a quick search to see how its reputation stands with the Better Business Bureau, Charity Watch or GuideStar.

●Ask for a receipt from the charity, which will verify it as tax deductible.

●Avoid sending cash. It’s not secure to send cash through the mail, and you also will not get a receipt to claim the donation on your taxes.

The FTC has also recommended sending donations to charities that you already have a relationship with, to avoid the possibility that you’re giving to an organization set up simply to take advantage of the situation.

To add a few more things to keep in mind: You should also follow your instincts about whether an e-mail seems fishy or not. If the grammar of the e-mail seems off or there are misspellings, you should delete the e-mail immediately.

Don’t click on links in e-mails, even if they seem legitimate. It’s much safer to go straight to the Web site of the charity — for example, the Red Cross — rather than trusting a link in an e-mail that could be a clever fake and redirect you to another site.

Finally, before you send money through a text message campaign, you should also verify that the charity you’re donating to is collecting money through text messages — and that the notice you’ve received is not the work of a spammer.

By following these tips, you can be more confident that the money you’re giving is getting to the right people.

Those exploiting the events in Boston may not simply be looking for money. You should also be wary of e-mails that are using subject lines related to the Boston Marathon bombings to spread malware. Security firm Trustwave posted a list of some of the subject lines being used in these e-mails.

These include phrases such as “BREAKING-Boston Marathon Explosion” and “Boston Explosion Caught on Video.”

The links in these e-mails connect to a site showing pictures of the marathon, but also contain a link to malware that the firm said will send more spam messages from infected computers.

Related stories:

Michelle Singletary: Boston Marathon profiteers

Live blog: Boston Marathon bombing manhunt: Live updates as police look for Suspect Number 2

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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