California Attorney General Rob Bonta this week provided California donors with tips to avoid fraud and other scams when making charitable donations such as this week’s Giving Tuesday. The Attorney General’s Office encourages donors to learn the common signs of charity fraud and to do their research to ensure they are donating to legitimate charities and organizations.
“Charities rely heavily on the goodwill of Californians to operate and serve individuals with diverse backgrounds and needs,” said Bonta. “Sadly, as charity fraud becomes more common across the nation, it is crucial that Californians do their due diligence before they donate.”
Tips on how to avoid charity fraud:
• Check the registration status: Charities and professional fundraisers 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. Before you donate, make sure to confirm that the charity is registered and up-to-date with its financial reporting. Registry Verification Search tool allows you to search the Registry’s database.
• Give to organizations you trust: Always do your research before making a donation. Review the charity’s annual financial reports to find out how much of your donation will actually be spent on the charitable cause.
• Don’t be pressured by telemarketers and ask questions before donating: If you receive a call from a telemarketer, take your time and make sure to ask plenty of questions, such as the name of the fundraising organization, whether the fundraising organization is registered with the Attorney General’s Office and the name of the charity that is benefitting from the solicitation.
• Be cautious of “look-alike” and fake websites and emails: Be on the lookout for websites and emails that use slightly different web addresses (URLs) or email addresses in order to pass off as a legitimate charity. Scammers sometimes purchase these types of URLs or create fake email accounts in order to trick potential donors into donating to a look-alike website or steal your information.
• Watch out for similar-sounding names and other deceptive tactics: Some organizations use names that closely resemble those of well-established charitable organizations in order to mislead donors. Additionally, if you receive an email from an organization to which you have never donated, take extra precautions before clicking on any links.
• Be wary of social network fundraising: Never assume charitable fundraisers that you see online or on social media are legitimate, even if it is shared by someone that you trust. If you plan to donate through a social network solicitation, do your research first.
• Protect your identity: Never give your Social Security number, credit card information, or other personal identifiable information in response to a charitable solicitation. Some organizations may sell or rent their donor lists to other organizations, including organizations that are not charities.
• Be careful when making electronic donations: Electronic donations, such as donations made via text, QR Codes, and Square Card Readers, have become common practice due to their ability to provide a quick and easy way to donate on the spot.
For more information on how to protect yourself against charity fraud, visit the donation tips webpage at https://oag.ca.gov/donations.