SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today, in recognition of Giving Tuesday, provided tips and released a video on how Californians can avoid deceptive or misleading solicitations while making charitable donations this holiday season. As charitable giving increases during the month of December, so do the chances of being scammed. In providing today’s tips, Attorney General Becerra encourages donors to do their research to ensure that their donations go towards their intended purpose.
“As Californians come together for the greater good, scammers are ready to capitalize on the charitable intent of donors during the holiday season. It is important that we each do our homework and only donate to legitimate and trustworthy organizations,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The California Department of Justice is dedicated to protecting charitable assets and donors from deceptive or misleading solicitations. Help us do that by taking the necessary steps to ensure that your donations get into the right hands.”
- 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. Before you donate, make sure to confirm that the charity is registered and up-to-date with its financial reporting. The Charitable Trusts database is currently undergoing maintenance. During this time, you can still check the registration status of a charitable organization by downloading and reviewing Charity Registration Reports. These reports are updated monthly on the Registry Reports web page at https://www.oag.ca.gov/charities/reports.
- Give to Organizations You Trust: Do your research before giving. Review the charity’s purpose and find out how the charity 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.
- 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.
For more information on how to protect yourself and your donations, check out our donation tips webpage at https://oag.ca.gov/donations. Complaints against charities can be filed using our charity complaint form, which you can find on our website at https://oag.ca.gov/charities/complaints.