Published: Dec 26, 2011 11:23 PM EST
Updated: Dec 27, 2011 12:44 AM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- The holiday season puts everyone in the spirit of giving. But with the generosity of the season also comes some unscrupulous people trying to make a buck. Before you open up your heart and your wallet, make sure you check out to whom you are donating!

“This time of year when you're looking at the end of a fiscal year or a charity giving year, we find that a lot of charity type scams come up,” said Stacey Payne from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Fraud Unit. “Now people are tugging at people's heartstrings saying you should give to this charity.”

Payne says sometimes thieves will take a name that is very similar to a known charity to fool you into giving.

So she says don't feel pressured to give right away.

“Call that actual charity,” said Payne, “Call them and say I would like to make an end of year donation how do I do this?”

Even known charities can sometimes not use your gift wisely.

Last spring, Call For Action found the Disabled Veterans Foundation of America out of Miami soliciting for donations on 41. Even though they are a registered charity with the IRS, we found their tax forms show only 50 cents of every dollar actually went to help veterans.

This is another reason Payne says you should make sure you research before you open your wallet.

“The thing we want to do is take our time. Make sure the charities we are donating to are legitimate charities. That they really exist. Do our homework first.”

Here are the sites were you can check out charities:
www.guidestar.org
www.charitynavigator.org
www.give.org