Attorney General Becerra Issues Consumer Alert on Sham Charities Following Las Vegas Shooting
SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a consumer alert to warn Californians about sham charities being started following Sunday’s shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. The shooting has thus far claimed the lives of 59 individuals and wounded more than 500, including Californians. This is the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.
The California Attorney General has the primary responsibility for supervising charities and the professional fundraisers who solicit on their behalf. Under Government Code section 12580 et seq., the Attorney General may investigate and bring legal actions against charities and fundraisers that misuse charitable assets or engage in fraudulent fundraising practices.
“California stands with our neighbors in Las Vegas. Our hearts and prayers are with the victims, their families, the peace officers and firefighters who responded, and everyone affected,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Unfortunately, some people try to capitalize on our generosity in times of tragedy. These unscrupulous individuals set up fake charities purporting to help the victims of the tragedy only to line their own pockets. I encourage anyone who has been a victim of a charitable giving scam to file a complaint through my office’s website, www.oag.ca.gov, or call (800) 952-5225. The California Department of Justice has zero tolerance for disgraceful scam artists, especially during this difficult time. We will do everything we can to hold them accountable.”
- 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 their 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 And 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 department, firefighter or other public safety agency, check directly with the benefitting organization to confirm that they 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.