You’ve seen the pictures of the devastation in Texas and the Gulf Coast, and you want to help. You can give to your local Red Cross agency, or United Way, but now you’re also seeing advertisements that tell you to give online, or even by a text. Before you go that route, there are a few things you should be aware of to make sure your donation is going to the people who need it.

First, you want to make sure the charity you choose is legitimately able to receive your donation. You can do that by visiting the Exempt Organizations Select Check page of the official IRS website to determine if the charity is registered and is eligible to receive your tax-deductible donation. From there, you can click on the select check tool and search by the name of the organization.

Next, you want to make sure the charity handles your donations properly and uses a large percentage of your donation to actually help the people you want to help. You can visit Charity Navigator to look up your charity and see its star rating along with more in-depth analysis of the charity based on the filings the charity is required to file by the government.

More detailed information about charities that you might like to give to is also available at Charity Watch. This site has lots of information about the new crowdfunding campaigns and websites. The most important point to remember about this type of giving is that anyone, anywhere, can set up a GoFundMe or YouCaring fundraising campaign and accept donations. It may sound like a worthwhile cause, but fundraisers for a phony charity or cause can set up a site as easily as legitimate charities, and there is very little vetting that goes on before they begin accepting donations.

You want to help—that’s great because, as we see every day, people need the help. Just be sure you do a little research before you choose the charity to donate to. Trust your instincts—if it sounds a little “off” it just might be. After a little research, you can donate with confidence and have the peace of mind that your donation is helping the people who need it.

By Cliff Acheson, CPA