It's 2022 and for the last two years, it seems like the world has thrown everything it can at us — not to mention that a lot of awareness and fundraising is happening on the internet. But how do you know that what comes from your wallet goes to where it needs to?

“If it's $5, $50, $5,000, you want to make sure that it's going to benefit those individuals that are in need of those funds,” said Utica University Graduate Cyber Security Program Director Andrew Carr.

Carr said being mindful of best practices when vetting online charity organizations is more important than ever, as cyberscams are on the rise nationwide and as more people around the globe reach for help.

“A lot of the tell-tale signs or similar things that you would find when you're doing online shopping and looking for legitimate sites, obviously, you know, HTTP versus HTTPS, right. So the 'S' signifies a secure encrypted connection,” said Carr. 

Whether it's online or through the phone, Carr said some other red flags include charities looking for payment in gift cards of cryptocurrency and groups that are pushy. 

“St. Jude is not going to call you and push, 'you have to do this right now.' Or, 'we can never take your donation again,'” Carr said. “I'm pretty sure they'll take it tomorrow.”

Carr said the general rule is that just because it's on the internet, doesn't mean it's legit.

“Things you see on social media, take with a very big grain of salt. Social media, people will share anything and everything whether or not they have any idea of the source for it," said Carr.

Lists and ready-made sites to research U.S. nonprofits can be found on the websites for the IRS, Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau.

Carr said no offense to some of the smaller charities, but to ensure your contribution is best utilized, go with tried and tested organizations, organizations like Unicef, the United Way and the American Red Cross.

“Doing something like that with an organization that has a good pipeline for getting those resources to those individuals is going to be more beneficial than some pop-up organization or some local organization that may not have the resources or knowledge of how to get those donations and money into the hands of those that need it,” Carr said.

Long story short, Carr said you should always put research into where your donation is going and keep your skepticism along with optimism, you'll find a cause that is legit.

“Taking that extra 30 minutes or an hour, probably not even that long, to make sure that your donation is going where you want it to go,” said Carr.