AG warns of sham charities for Hurricane Harvey victims

Donors called to be on alert for 'look-alike' fraudulent fundraising websites

Californians should be careful when donating money to charities purporting to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, the state's attorney general said Friday.

Sham charities are trying to take advantage of Californians' generosity in response to the hurricane, which has devastated parts of Texas and Louisiana, Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.

"Right now, Californians are donating their hard-earned money to help victims of Hurricane Harvey," Becerra said in a statement. "Unfortunately, some are ... starting fake charities to line their own pockets."

The attorney general said, "We need to do our best to ensure that every dollar goes directly to those in need."

He encouraged anyone who has been a victim of a charitable giving scam to file a complaint through his office.

Becerra said donors should check the registration status of the organization at Charities operating in California and telemarketers soliciting donations must register with the Attorney General's Registry of Charitable Trusts.

Donors also should review the charity's purpose and its financial records on the registry, and find out how the charity spends donations.

Becerra advised finding out how much is spent directly on the charitable cause and how much goes to employee salaries and overhead.

It's also important to resist pressure from telemarketers and ask questions before donating.

Donors should ask for the name of the fundraising organization, whether it's registered with the attorney general, the name of the charity benefiting from the solicitation, how much will go to charity and how much to the telemarketer, and the direct telephone number of the charity.

Donors should be on the alert for "look-alike," fraudulent websites that mirror legitimate sites, Becerra said. The URLs, or Web addresses, of the fraudulent sites will likely differ slightly from those of the real sites.

Some organizations will use names that closely resemble those of well-established charitable organizations to mislead donors. Residents should be skeptical if someone thanks them for a pledge they never made, and check their records.

Donors should never give their Social Security number, credit card number or other personal information in response to a charitable solicitation, Becerra said, adding that it's a good idea to look at the charity's privacy policy and learn who the charity might share a donor's

personal information with before sharing it.

Anyone who fears they have been taken advantage of by a sham charity should call the attorney general's office at (800) 952-5225 or file a complaint online at


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