Tip of Week - September 5, 2017 - Know Where Your Charitable Donations Are Going

Image courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

Image courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

News of the devastation Hurricane Harvey left behind in parts of Texas and Louisiana has touched many of us.   There’s no question there are many people in need of help and Americans are responding by making charitable donations.  But which organizations are you contributing to?  Is more money going to administrative costs than relief efforts?  Have you checked out the organization you’re donating to, to verify it’s legit?

“We see the video coming from the hardest hit areas and we hear the stories of people in need and many of us are touched deeply and want to help,” said CSLEA Foundation Chairman Kenny Ehrman.  “Unfortunately, scam artists jump into the mix and will gladly take your money if you let them.  Please know who you are donating to.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra released the following “Donation Tips”:

  • 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. 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.
  • Protect Your Identity: Never give your social security number or other personal information in response to a charitable solicitation. Never give out credit card information to an organization unfamiliar to you. Some organizations sell or rent their donor lists to other organizations, including organizations that are not charities. Look at the charity’s privacy policy and learn who the charity might share your information with before you provide it.

Victims of charitable giving scams can to file a complaint through the Attorney General’s website or call (800) 952-5225.