California Attorney General Warns of Charity Scams During Holiday Season

During the season of giving, California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a consumer alert for residents to take steps against scam prevention before donating to charity.

Bonta joined the food pantry organization Second Harvest of Silicon Valley in San Mateo on Thursday to share tips on how residents can ensure their donations get into the right hands.

“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,” Bonta said. “My office is committed to protecting donors from deceptive solicitations.”

Bonta encourages residents to check the registration status of charities, as all professional organizations soliciting donations in California are required to be registered in the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts and file annual financial reports. Residents can search the registry’s database via the Registry Verification Search tool to see if a charity has followed state requirements, and how much of their donations go towards people in need.

Residents should also take their time to ask questions when on the phone with a pressuring telemarketer, said Bonta. Residents should ask basic questions to learn the fundraiser’s name, registration status and the amount of money going to charity work before donating.

Some scam charities try to use names that sound similar to well-known charities. Bonta warns residents to be extra careful of “look-alike” emails, websites and social media fundraising.

Residents should also never give their personal information, like their Social Security number or credit card information, to charities seeking donations. Sometimes organizations sell or rent their donor lists, so residents should check charities’ privacy policy to see if their information will be distributed to other companies.

Residents should also check their receipt and their credit card statement after donating online, said Bonta.

Bonta also warned that his office can investigate and initiate legal action against fraudulent charities. 

Residents can report charities or fundraisers that they believe to have acted in bad faith to Bonta’s office at

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