The best way to avoid charity fraud is to hunt down the charity of your choice instead of giving to every so called charity that contacts you. If the charity is established like the Salvation Army, it is a better than an individual. A charity such as a local food bank is also a good choice. Food banks help many people who are struggling in today's economy. Churches often have food and clothing banks that you may donate to.
If you are short on money but you have a lot of clothes that you may be dreaming of getting back into someday, those clothes could go to a clothing bank in your area. The police department in your area might have some good suggestions. They tend to end up helping needy people find the food and clothing banks. Do not send money just because you have received a letter or an email asking you to do so. Choose your own charity to give to and ignore the rest.