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March 22, 2011 > Beware of charity scams

Beware of charity scams

Submitted By the California Attorney General's Office

Attorney General Kamala D Harris encourages Californians to make charitable donations to help victims of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan but warns citizens to beware of scams posing as charities that sometimes prey on donors' goodwill in times of tragedy.

Harris offers the following tips on how to give wisely, if solicited, to help disaster relief efforts and ensure donations are used as the donor intends.

Carefully review disaster-relief appeals before giving. In times of disaster, many "sound-alike" organizations and sham operations solicit donations.

Make sure the charity is registered in the Attorney General's Registry of Charitable Trusts. Registration does not guarantee a charity's efficacy but is an important indicator. A searchable database is available at

Ask what percentage of your donation will be used for charitable activities that directly help victims.

Avoid donating through e-mail solicitations. Clicking on an e-mail may lead you to a website that looks authentic but is established by identity thieves seeking to obtain money or personal information.

Only provide your credit card information once you have reviewed all information from a charity and verified its credibility. Do not ask the organization to store your credit card information.

Do not give cash. Write checks payable to the charitable organization, not a solicitor.

Take action on your own rather than responding to solicitations. Seek out known organizations and give directly, either by calling the organization, using the organization's official website, or mailing a check to the address listed on the organization's website.

The Attorney General's Office regulates charities and their for-profit fundraisers to prevent the misuse of charitable donations.

For additional tips on charitable giving, visit Information on national charities is available from the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance at 800-575-4483 or

Californians who believe they or others have been victimized by fraudulent charitable solicitation can file a complaint online with the Attorney General's Registrar of Charitable Trusts at

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