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Attorney General Rob Bonta urges Californians to do research before donating

In this March 24, 2021, file photo, California Assemblyman Rob Bonta speaks during a news conference shortly after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his nomination for state's attorney general in San Francisco.
Noah Berger, File / Associated Press
In this March 24, 2021, file photo, California Assemblyman Rob Bonta speaks during a news conference shortly after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his nomination for state's attorney general in San Francisco.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta joined volunteers with the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank Monday and offered tips on how to donate to charities safely and avoid scams during the holidays.

According to the Attorney General's Office, Bonta has primary regulatory oversight of charities and professional fundraisers who solicit on their behalf in California. His office may investigate and bring legal action against charities and fundraisers that misuse charitable assets or engage in fraudulent fundraising practices, a statement read.

"As food prices continue to soar, making ends meet may be a struggle for some families this holiday season," Bonta said. "Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank ensures families have access to food and other resources for a happy holiday and a healthy future.


"Today, my colleagues and I are proud to lend a hand to their important work, and provide tips for Californians volunteering or donating this holiday season," he said. "To all Californians donating their hard-earned money: It's important to do your research and take steps to avoid falling victim to charity fraud."

The attorney general reminded Californians if they believe that a charity or fundraiser is engaged in misconduct, to report it go to the Attorney General's website.

Some strategies Bonta's office provided to ensure organizations are legitimate include:

  • Checking the registration status: Charities and professional fundraisers soliciting donations in California are required to register with the Attorney General's Registry of Charitable Trusts, which can be accessed at;
  • Giving to organizations you trust: Do your research before making a donation by reviewing the charity's annual financial reports to find out how much of your donation will actually be spent on the charitable cause, as well as how much, if any, will go to overhead and employee compensation;
  • Not being pressured by telemarketers: If you receive a call from a telemarketer, do not fall for pressure tactics or threats. Remember, you have the right to decline a donation request and can hang up;
  • Being cautious of "look-alike" and fake websites and emails: Be on the lookout for websites and emails that use slightly different web addresses or email addresses in order to pass off as a legitimate charity. If a charity's website or email is asking for your detailed personal information — such as your Social Security Number, date of birth, or your bank account number — it may likely be a scam; and
  • Watching out for similar-sounding names: Some organizations use names that closely resemble those of well-established charitable organizations in order to mislead donors. Be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge or donation that you never made, as scammers use this trick to deceive you into paying them.

Bonta also warned people to be wary of fundraising shared on social media, making electronic donations and to always protect your identity.

Even with the warnings, Bonta and San Diego Food Bank CEO Casey Castillo encouraged Californians to be giving this season.


"Donations of both food and money are critical to the continuation of the San Diego Food Bank's programs year after year," Castillo said. "But equally as important to the success of our day-to-day operations is our incredible army of volunteers. They help ensure we fulfill our mission.

"We are grateful to Attorney General Rob Bonta and his team for volunteering at our Miramar warehouse today and serving as an inspiring example of what it means to be good stewards of the community," Castillo said. "Hopefully, their example encourages others to lend a hand or make a donation to an organization they're passionate about."

Established in 1977, the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank partners with more than 500 San Diego County nonprofit charities, acting as a central repository and distribution point for donated food. According to the nonprofit, the food bank distributed 45 million pounds of food in the Fiscal Year 2022-2023 to individuals, families and a network of nonprofit organizations.

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