OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today provided California donors with tips to avoid fraud and other scams when making charitable donations during Giving Tuesday. The Attorney General’s Office is responsible for supervising and regulating charities that operate in California and the professional fundraisers who solicit on their behalf. Attorney General Bonta 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 Attorney General Bonta. “Sadly, as charity fraud becomes more common across the nation, it is crucial that Californians do their due diligence before they donate. This Giving Tuesday, learn the signs to avoid being preyed on by scammers looking to make a quick buck off your generosity.”
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. The Registry of Charitable Trust’s Registry Verification Search tool allows you to search the Registry’s database and verify whether a charitable organization or fundraiser has complied with the Attorney General’s registration and reporting requirements.
- 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, as well as how much, or if any, will go to overhead and employee compensation. Research charities in your community and support those that make a positive impact.
- 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, the name of the charity that is benefitting from the solicitation, how much of your donation will go to charity and how much to the fundraising company, and the direct telephone number of the charity that is receiving the donation. If the telemarketer tells you the donation is for your local animal shelter, hospital, school, police, 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 decline the donation request. If you feel pressured or threatened, just hang up.
- 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. Be careful of fake websites by closely looking at the web address, and be cautious of web addresses that end in a series of numbers. If a charity’s website or email is asking for your detailed personal information — such as your Social Security Number, date of birth, or your bank account number — it may likely be a scam.
- 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 skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge or donation that you never made, as scammers use this trick to deceive you into paying them. If you are unsure whether or not you made a donation, make sure to check your records.
- 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 and 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.
- 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. While convenient, remember that anyone can create a QR code, send a text, or buy a Square Card Reader. Always confirm that the solicitation was submitted by a charity, or that the person facilitating the transaction is authorized to receive donations on behalf of a charity. Always check your receipt and your credit card/PayPal statement to ensure that the transaction charged to your account is accurate.
For more information on how to protect yourself against charity fraud, visit our donation tips webpage at https://oag.ca.gov/donations. Complaints against charities can be filed using our charity complaint form at https://oag.ca.gov/charities/complaints.