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Tips for Donating Wisely & Safe Shopping

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued tips for the holiday season on how Californians can protect themselves from identity theft and make the most of their charitable giving.

Tips for safe shopping:

  • Review your bank and credit card statements frequently for unusual transactions.
  • In the event of a security breach involving your credit card, monitor your account and contact your bank promptly if you see any suspicious transactions.
  • If the security breach involves your debit card, the best way to protect yourself is to immediately cancel the card and get a replacement with a different number.
  • Don’t make purchases in free Wi-Fi hotspots, such as a coffee shop, which can put your passwords and other information at risk.
  • Shop on secure websites. One indicator about which websites are safe, and which are not, is the presence of a yellow padlock icon in the browser bar. Another indicator is ‘https’ in the web address.
  • Never send sensitive personal or financial information through e-mail. Legitimate companies will not ask you to do so because it is not a secure way to transfer sensitive information.
  • If you are receiving text messages on your cell phone saying you have won a prize or gift card, do not click on the link in the message – it is most likely a scam and may install a virus on your phone.
  • Know the return policies of the retailers you shop with before you leave the store or conclude an online transaction. Many retailers will give you a refund if you have a receipt and your return is prompt, but some may only give store credit. Ask a clerk if the policy is not posted at the register.

Tips for donating wisely:

  • The best way for many donors to select worthwhile charities is to work with a local charity as a volunteer. This helps provide first-hand knowledge about programs that benefit your community.
  • You may want your donation used for a specific program or purpose within a charity. If a website has a “donate” button, check to see if you can designate a specific purpose for your donation. If you can’t, contact the charity to be sure your donation will be spent for the purpose you intend.
  • If you are contacted by a solicitor on behalf of a charity, ask if he/she works for a commercial fundraiser and what percentage of donations goes directly to the charity. You may prefer to contact the charity directly to make a donation.
  • If you receive an email or text message asking for a donation to a charity, contact the charity directly and confirm that the request is legitimate.
  • If a solicitor tells you the donation is for your local police, firefighter or other public safety agency, check directly with the agency to avoid a potential scam.
  • Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs, or other social media have been vetted. Research the charity yourself.
  • Make charitable contributions directly on a charity’s website. If donating by check, use the full name of the charity rather than initials or an abbreviation. Do not give your credit card number to a telephone solicitor or in response to any unsolicited phone call you receive.

Additional consumer tips, information, and lists of resources are available at:

The California Attorney General’s consumer tips on identity theft and other privacy issues,

The California Attorney General’s Guide to Charitable Giving,, or toll free nationwide at (877) 382-4357, for additional information about a specific charity

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