With the holiday season upon us, Secretary of State Wayne Williams asks Coloradans to give generously to their favorite charities but also to give wisely by guarding against scams. "It is important for Coloradans to research the charities they support and trust that their donations are being used prudently," Williams said.

"To this end, we encourage everyone to use CheckTheCharity.com to learn more about their favorite charities before making donations."

Here are the Secretary of State's Top 10 wise giving tips:
1. Ask for the registration number of the charity and paid solicitor.
2. Make a note of the individual caller's first and last name and the name of the telemarketing company that employs the caller.
3. Ask the solicitor how much of the donation will go to the charity, whether the donation is tax deductible, and what charitable programs it will support.
4. If solicited in person, ask for the solicitor's identification and registration number.
5. Resist pressure to give on the spot, whether from a telemarketer or door-to-door solicitor, and beware if they thank you for making a pledge you don't remember making. If you feel uncomfortable, just say, "No, thank you."
6. Do not pay in cash. Donate by check made payable to the charity or use the charity's website to donate by credit card.
7. Make sure you are visiting the official website of the charity you wish to support, and beware of look alike websites, especially if you are asked to provide personal financial information.
8. Research the charity's disclosure and financial statements on the Secretary of State's web site.
9. Be wary if the charity fails to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, finances and how the donation will be used. Reputable charities will gladly provide the information requested.
10. Watch out for charities with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. These sound-alike names are intended to confuse.

Most charities that solicit contributions in Colorado are required to register with the Secretary of State. The registration filings include information about the organization's leadership, mission, financial efficiency, and commercial fundraisers. Paid solicitors that raise funds in Colorado also register, and their disclosure forms show the duration and results of any solicitation campaigns conducted.

Colorado residents may also access the state's annual reports on charitable giving at http://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/charities/annualReports.html. The reports analyze and illustrate the information reported by registered charities and paid solicitors, most notably the results of the joint solicitation campaigns they conducted during the previous year. 

Consumers should report suspected fraudulent charitable solicitations to the Colorado Secretary of State's Office or the Attorney General's Office.