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Attorney General Lockyer Urges Californians to Guard Against Fraudulent Solicitations for Charities

Con Artists May Try To Exploit the Holiday Spirit
Monday, December 9, 2002
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(SACRAMENTO) – Compassion, helping the less fortunate, supporting programs that enhance the community and people's lives – these are values that define the holiday season. Nowhere is the virtue of charity stronger than in California.

Unfortunately, charlatans will try to exploit Californians' generosity with fraudulent solicitations for charitable organizations. Attorney General Bill Lockyer urged consumers to be vigilant and protect themselves against fraud.

"Con artists who take advantage of Californians' compassionate spirit rank among the worst type of offenders," said Lockyer. "Not only do they steal money from consumers, but their greed deprives people in need."

Lockyer offered consumers these suggestions on how to avoid fraud and ensure their donations are used for the purposes for which they were given.

Get as many facts as you can about both the solicitor and charity, including exact name, address and telephone number. Commercial fundraisers and charitable organizations are required to register and file financial statements with the Attorney General's Office. Registration and financial information can be obtained at the Attorney General's Website, www.ag.ca.gov/charities . If solicited in person, ask to see the solicitor's identification. In addition, many California cities and counties have ordinances to protect the public against fraudulent solicitation. These ordinances may require charities and charitable fundraisers to register, certify their tax exempt status, obtain a license to solicit, and file an accounting of fundraising proceeds. Find out from your city if such ordinances are in effect. Registration is not proof of trustworthiness, but failure to register violates California law.

If solicited by telephone, ask to be mailed information about the charity's purpose, goals and finances before making any donation.

Don't be fooled by names that sound impressive or that closely resemble the name of a familiar organization. The Attorney General's Office has received numerous complaints about phony organizations using law enforcement names.

Don't give cash. Make checks out to the charitable organization, not the person asking for the donation. Never give your credit card number.

Ask how your money will be used. Ask how much money actually will reach the charity and whether the solicitor is being paid to make the call. If you ask how your money will be used, the solicitor is required by law to give you the information. Reports detailing how much of the donations solicited by commercial fundraisers go to charities can be found at the Attorney General's Website, www.ag.ca.gov/charities/publications.htm.

Don't give in to pressure to donate on the spot. Legitimate organizations will not rush or pressure you into giving money immediately.

Do not accept any offers to send a messenger to your home to pick up your contribution.

Hang up the telephone on aggressive and harassing solicitors.

If you wish to report a charity which you suspect to be conducting fraudulent activity, contact the Attorney General's Registry of Charitable Trusts in writing. It is the job of the Attorney General's Charitable Trusts Section to detect and correct charity fiscal abuse. You may write to the Registry of Charitable Trusts at P.O. Box 903447, Sacramento, CA 94203-4470.

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