Ways to tell if a charity is legitimate

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- People across the country have started the trend of Giving Tuesday where people give money to charities as they see fit. But sometimes what may seem like a legitimate charity is not. Some scammers even disguise themselves by registering with the Secretary of State's office.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says the season of giving too often becomes the season of holiday scams.

Jason Najmulski, who volunteers with Covenant House, says he not only sees the donations but works everyday for an organization that needs them.

"I see what they do for the homeless, and I know a good number of people that work here and I just trust them you can see what they do," Najmulski said.

Registered businesses could be on the list and still use the money donated inappropriately. Charities have to report salaries, budgets and other administrative costs to the state. These numbers can actually be looked up and they will show how much of the money a charity is using to directly benefit the cause.

Click here to find out more about businesses registered in West Virginia with the Secretary of State's office.

The thing to look out for are administrative costs such as travel budgets, advertising, salaries, events such as parties or hospitality, and more. Whatever the administrative costs, they should be around 10 to 20 percent of the total amount of revenue, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said. If someone has 100 dollars, 80 to 90 dollars should go directly to benefit the cause the charity supports.

"For every hundred dollars, how much are you spending on issues unrelated to the cause itself just for the ability to raise money, pay salaries, to have other expenditures?" Morrisey said. "When you start to see these numbers get up over 50, 60, 70, 80 percent -- that's a red flag."

"Yes, yes you see the need and when you come in here and volunteering, you see the need everyday. This place stays full of people everyday," Najmulski said.

Morrisey said administrative costs should be around 10 to 20 percent. People and organizations are counting on donations on this giving Tuesday, throughout the holiday season and beyond.

"Just pause for a minute take that one to three minutes to do a little bit of research will save you a lot at the back end," Morrisey said.