California Attorney General Xavier Becerra provided tips to Californians on how to avoid becoming the victim of charity scams. Attorney General Becerra has the primary responsibility for supervising charities and the professional fundraisers who solicit on their behalf in California. Under Government Code section 12598, the Attorney General may investigate and bring legal actions against charities that misuse charitable assets or engage in fraudulent fundraising practices.
“As Californians support one another and give back to our communities this holiday season, it’s important to make sure the charities we support are the real deal,” said Attorney General Becerra. “I urge all Californians to be vigilant and do a little research to ensure that their charitable giving goes directly to those who need the help, and not to unscrupulous scam artists. If you have information about a charity operating outside the law, please let us know. The California Department of Justice has your back and will go after bad actors who try to take advantage of the generosity of Californians.”
Check registration status: Charities operating in California and telemarketers soliciting donations in California are required to register with the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts. They are also required to file annual financial reports. Confirm that the charity is registered and up-to-date with its financial reporting by searching the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts at www.oag.ca.gov/charities.
Give to organizations you trust: Do your research before giving. Review the charity’s purpose and its financial records, available on the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts, and find out how it spends donations. How much is spent directly on the charitable cause? How much goes to overhead and employee compensation? Research charities in your community and support those charities that make a positive impact.
Don’t be pressured by telemarketers; Ask questions before donating: If you receive a call from a telemarketer, ask for the name of the fundraising organization, whether it is registered with the Attorney General’s Office, the name of the charity benefitting from the solicitation, how much of your donation will go to charity and how much to the telemarketer, and the direct telephone number of the charity. If the telemarketer tells you the donation is for your local animal shelter, hospital, school, police, firefighting or other public safety agency, check directly with the benefitting organization to confirm that it authorized the solicitation and will actually benefit from your donation. Don’t fall for pressure tactics or threats. Remember you have the right to reject the donation appeal and if you feel pressured or threatened, just hang up.
Be cautious of “look-alike” websites: These fraudulent websites may have a slightly different web address (URL). Similar looking URLs are sometimes purchased to lure in would-be donors. These sites may ask for personal information or install harmful material onto your device.
Watch out for similar-sounding names and other deceptive tactics: Some organizations use names that closely resemble those of well-established charitable organizations to mislead donors. Be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge you never made. Check your records. Remember: current registration status with the Attorney General’s Office does not mean the Attorney General endorses or has approved the activities of the organization.
Be wary of social network fundraising: If you are planning to donate through a social network solicitation, find out what percentage is going to the charity, whether you will be charged a fee, or if a percentage of your donation will be paid to the platform website.