While giving to charities during the holidays is a spirited activity, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer cautioned donors to protect themselves against potential fraud. “Many groups rely on the fruits of holiday giving to fund their charitable programs,” Lockyer said in an announcement from his office. “And while the majority of charities are reputable and do good work, it is important to avoid being victimized by those who will try to exploit your compassion.” People who want to volunteer their time or service or donate food or other goods to a charity are encouraged to follow some of the same rules. Find out as much as possible about an organization before agreeing to assist. Lockyer’s office has published a guide for charitable giving online at www.ag.ca.gov/charities. Some of the more important points include: AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake Don’t give in to pressure to donate on the spot. Know enough about the soliciting charity to assure you are giving wisely. Be proactive. Rather than responding only to charities that contact you, identify the causes that you care about and gather information about organizations working on those issues. Learn more about organizations, their activities and fundraising practices. Many groups have Web sites that spell out accomplishments and how donations are used, as well as news articles mentioning the organization and how they are perceived in the community. The attorney general’s Web site has information on registered charities and their current financial filings. Beware of “sound-alike” names. Don’t be fooled by names that sound impressive or closely resemble the name of a familiar organization. The Attorney General’s Office has received numerous complaints about phony organizations using law enforcement names in their titles. Don’t give cash. Some well-known charities solicit cash during the holidays, and dropping change in the bucket is OK if you know the charity. Write checks to the charitable organization, never to an individual. Avoid e-mail solicitations. Spammers are getting better every day at creating phony solicitations that look real. Many of them lead victims to a Web site that looks legitimate but is really a false front for an illegal scam. Be wary about using your credit card. Many reputable organizations offer credit card transactions because it helps keep their fundraising costs down. In order to protect your personal financial information, call the organization directly to make the transaction and ask them not to store your credit card number. Ask solicitors how your donation will be spent. Commercial fundraisers, such as telemarketers, are required to tell you if they are being paid and whether they are registered with the Attorney General’s Office. Ask how much of your donation will be retained by the fundraiser and how much will be received by the charity. State law requires commercial fundraisers to provide that information if asked. Never accept an offer to send a messenger to your home to pick up your contribution. Consumers who wish to report a organization that may be conducting fraudulent solicitations can contact the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts online at www.ag.ca.gov.charities or in writing at P.O. Box 903447, Sacramento, CA 94203-4470. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!