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A "Lion King" set is one of the numerous scenes at Christmas Storybook Land. The Albany holiday favorite opens Friday and runs through Dec. 14. 

We're approaching the end of the year, and so it's likely that your mailbox is beginning to fill up with three types of mail:

• Christmas catalogs.

• Christmas cards (although we still cannot understand how people can be so organized as to get those ready so early in the season).

• And solicitations from various nonprofit organizations asking you to donate to their causes before the end of the year.

The vast majority of these solicitations are from legitimate organizations that do good work in our communities and around the world. Chances are good that you've donated to many of them in the past.

However, this also is the season when scam artists roll out new schemes aimed at taking advantage of your generosity. So we appreciated a list of suggestions issued this week by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum designed to help you sniff out the inevitable scams. Here are some of the suggestions:

• You don't need to wait for solicitations to arrive at your mailbox; you probably already have a good sense of which organizations you want to support (and have supported them in the past). Write checks to those organizations. "This is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself from charity scammers," Rosenblum said in her news release, and it's good advice.

• Solicitations that look like an invoice are not to be trusted, especially when they're from an unfamiliar organization thanking you for your previous support. Don't recall that organization? That's because you didn't donate to it. Toss the "invoice" into the trash (or recycle it, if you're so inclined). 

• Watch out for charities that use names or logos that look like those used by legitimate organizations. You don't want to be contributing to the "Armenian Redd Kross" when you could give to the American Red Cross, although we have nothing against Armenia. 

• Don't wire money or send cash contributions. And don't write a check out to the person who's collecting your donation; make it out to the organization.

• Remember that donations made through a crowdfunding site such as GoFundMe or Kickstarter may not be tax-deductible. The attorney general also noted that this type of giving is not regulated or subject to financial disclosure requirements, so there's no guarantee that donations made through these sites will be spent where you think they'll be spent.

The Department of Justice maintains an online database of charities that can be a useful tool if you're trying to assess whether a charity is legitimate. You can access the website at this address: The Attorney General's office also recommends the Charity Navigator website, at

Here's the bottom line: It's your money, and you want it go to a legitimate charitable organization, not into the hands of crooks. A little care on your part can ensure that's what happens.

Christmas time is here

Don't get us wrong: Thanksgiving is great, and we love Small Business Saturday.

But here in the mid-valley, it doesn't really feel as if the Christmas season really has kicked in until Christmas Storybook Land throws open its doors, and that happens tonight at 6:30 at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center.

So let the season begin.

Generations of children (and adults too) have been delighted by the hundreds of displays featured every year at Christmas Storybook Land. This year's edition seems certain to delight and dazzle its guests.

A tip of our Christmas stockings to the small army of volunteers who labor every year to get Storybook Land up and running. Every year, the event grows: This year's additions include various "Star Wars"-themed displays. (The event also will feature "Star Wars" re-enactors from Portland, who are scheduled to appear at the event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 6.)

The Christmas Storybook Land truly is a labor of love, but better act fast if you want to catch it: It's only up through Dec. 14. (mm)

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