SAN MATEO – Today in San Mateo, California Attorney General Rob Bonta joined Second Harvest of Silicon Valley to share tips and resources on how to donate safely and avoid scams while giving this holiday season. Attorney General Bonta has primary regulatory oversight of charities and the professional fundraisers who solicit on their behalf in California. The Attorney General may investigate and bring legal action against charities that misuse charitable assets or engage in fraudulent fundraising practices. In providing today’s tips, Attorney General Bonta encourages donors to take the necessary steps to ensure that their donations get into the correct hands.
“As food prices continue to soar, making ends meet may be a struggle for some families this holiday season,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Fortunately, Second Harvest of Silicon Valley is helping families fill their pantries with food to make a hot meal. This holiday season, we’re standing with Second Harvest and organizations throughout California to deliver an important message: Before donating to charitable organizations this holiday season make sure to do your research and ensure the charity is legitimate. My office is committed to protecting donors from deceptive solicitations. If you believe that a charity or fundraiser has acted in bad faith, please report it immediately at oag.ca.gov/charities/complaints.”
“As the hub of the charitable food system in Silicon Valley, Second Harvest ensures our neighbors have access to nutritious food not just during the holidays but throughout the year,” said Leslie Bacho, CEO of Second Harvest of Silicon Valley. “Monetary donations to the food bank and other local nonprofits serving our community have never been more important as inflation takes a toll on local families and more need support. Second Harvest is committed to being good stewards of the resources entrusted to us in service to our clients and our community. We strongly encourage all donors and funders to research organizations of interest before donating.”
Tips on How to Donate Safely and 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. Hang up if you feel pressured or threatened.
- 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 portable credit 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 portable 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/online payment method] statement to ensure that the transaction charged to your account is accurate.