They come by email, by phone, by Facebook. Sometimes they knock on your door. Sometimes they're simply on the street or in your local mall.
They pull at your heartstrings to help the victims of the tragedy in Japan. After all, who hasn't been wracked by the images of that devastation?
Those in the military community have a long tradition of generosity when it comes to helping others in unfortunate circumstances.
But resist the urge to give right away — at least until you've checked out the charity on whose behalf you are being solicited.
Don't let a solicitor make you feel guilty: He may say the money is going to the disaster victims, but in reality, you might be lining the pockets of a scammer taking advantage of someone else's misery. They come out of the woodwork after every disaster.
There are legitimate organizations that will make the best use of your money, however. For starters, visit the http://www.redcross.org/">American Red Cross and the http://www.usaid.gov/">U.S. Agency for International Development.
Groups you may have a close affiliation with — such as your church, synagogue or mosque — may have long-established relief efforts to help disaster victims.
If you want to help military families who may be affected, contact the military relief society chapter on your installation or visit the http://www.nmcrs.org/">Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, http://www.aerhq.org/">Army Emergency Relief, http://www.afas.org">Air Force Aid Society or http://www.cgmahq.org">Coast Guard Mutual Assistance.
Some tips from the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau:
• Be wary of on-the-spot solicitations, especially when they're long on emotion and short on facts about what the charity will do with your money.
• Avoid cash gifts or wiring money. Pay with a check made out to the charity — not the solicitor — for security and tax reasons.
• Ask for the name of the charity if the solicitor doesn't provide it immediately. Ask what percentage of your donation will support the charity's cause described in the solicitation.
• Do not provide credit card information or bank information when a telemarketer calls you. Instead, ask the telemarketer to send you information and review it before you donate. Verify that the charity has authorized the solicitation.
• Check out charities at http://www.charitynavigator.org">www.charitynavigator.org, http://www.give.org">www.give.org or http://www.guidestar.org">www.guidestar.org. Contact the office that regulates charitable organizations and solicitations in your state; you can find that office by visiting the http://www.nasconet.org/agencies">National Association of State Charity Officials.
• If you're texting a donation, be aware it may not reach the charity immediately. Although major cellphone carriers work to process donations quickly, a high volume of donations may slow things down. If you do text, make sure you're not inadvertently signing up for monthly charges or to receive future solicitations from the charity or affiliated marketing companies.