Are your holiday donations going into the wrong hands?

More people give to charities during the holidays than any other time of the year either because of the giving spirit or for tax purposes, but there are some charities that state officials warn aren't so charitable.

"We want charitable donors to be aware that a lot of charitable organizations may be trying to take advantage of their generosity," said South Carolina Secretary of State Mark Hammond.

Every year Hammond's office puts out a "Scrooges and Angels" list that ranks the best and worst organizations collecting donations. The list shows the percentage of each organization's collections spent on charitable programs.

Top ten

-America's VetDogs - the Veterans's K-9 Corps, Inc., Smithtown, NY 80.2%

-Deep Well Project, Hilton Head Island, SC 91.6%

-Early Learning Partnership of York County, Rock Hill, SC 81.4%

-East Cooper Community Outreach (ECCO), Mount Pleasant, SC 85.4%

-Habitat for Humanity of North Augusta, North Augusta, SC 96.7%

-Humane Society of McCormick County, McCormick, SC 95.1%

-Nurturing Center, Inc., Columbia, SC 83%

-Rosa Clark Medical Clinic Association, Inc., Seneca, SC 99.1%

-Samaritan House of Orangeburg, Inc., Orangeburg, SC 84.3%

-South Carolina Hunters and Landowners for the Hungry, Spartanburg, SC 91.2%

"South Carolina is one of the most charitable states in the nation, but we need to make sure those contributions are actually going to those in need," said Hammond.

A national standard of 65 percent spent on charitable programs is what the secretary's office informs donors is a good amount. Some in the list give as little as four percent to charitable programs.

Bottom Ten

-American Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., Baltimore, MD 37.5%

-Defeat Diabetes Foundation, Inc., Madeira Beach, FL 11.8%

-Firefighters Support Services, Incorporated, Wyandotte, MI 21%

-Fraternal Order of Police Tri-County Lodge #3, Hanahan, SC 4.1%

-Fraternal Order of Police York County Lodge #15, Rock Hill, SC 9.2%

-Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, Inc., Annandale, VA 36%

-Missional Advancement Project, Inc., Aiken, SC 6.4%

-Operation Lookout National Center For Missing Youth, Everett, WA 9.9%

-United States Deputy Sheriffs' Association, Inc., Ashburn, VA 14.8%

-Veterans Support Foundation, Silver Spring, MD 24.6%

"I think a lot of people would be shocked to know," said United Way of Horry County Communications Coordinator Jill Watts. "That overhead cost is critical. Legitimate charities will give you that information. They'll give it to you in writing. You can ask questions. They won't hesitate to provide it to you. That's what you should be asking for."

The United Way of Horry County supports 42 human service agencies within the county. Those willing to give should look for red flags such as a pestering solicitor or someone not willing to answer questions about the organization, said Watts.

"If you're not sure, the answer is no. (tell them) Send me information. Call me back or I'll call you back," said Watts. "You can always say 'No. I don't feel comfortable with that'."

Other indications that a charity may not be one hundred percent reliable are when they use a paid solicitor instead of a volunteer and the charity has a similar name to a more recognized charity...example: The Red Cross instead of American Red Cross.

"It is important to understand who you're giving to. If the name sounds familiar but it could be very close to another organization that is more predominant that perhaps does a better job," said Watts. "That's part of that investigation, homework, asking questions...Find out as much as you can and don't be taken advantage of."

Protect yourself by not giving solicitors your credit card numbers and staying away from solicitors who refuse to mail you further information or request cash donations.