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Avoid scammers and con artists: “Give smart” this holiday season

Tips and online resources help people protect themselves from being scammed by fake charities and fundraisers

  • GIVESMART! initiative empowers Washingtonians to make educated, informed giving decisions

OLYMPIA — It’s the most wonderful time of the year for giving. And for scammers.

Today is Giving Tuesday, and Secretary of State Steve Hobbs encourages people to “give smart” this holiday season so charitable donations will get to their intended causes.

GIVESMART!, a collaboration between the Office of the Secretary of State’s Corporations and Charities division and the state Attorney General’s office, empowers people to make educated and informed giving decisions. GIVESMART! offers resources that can help Washingtonians, senior centers, retirement communities, and civic and nonprofit organizations protect themselves from being victimized by fake charities and fundraisers.

Resources include an Info Sheet and Trifold Brochure for quick and easy pointers, Telephone Questions Guide and Charities Contact Info magnets, and more. Also available is a Guide for Online Giving, which helps people understand how online charities and donations work, and how best to ensure their donations go directly to their designated charities or nonprofits.

To request hardcopies of the guide and other GIVESMART! resources at no charge, or to request an in-person presentation, call the Charities division at 800-332-4483 or visit sos.wa.gov/charities/givesmart.

“The holiday season is here, but so are scammers and con artists looking to take advantage of people’s generosity and kindness,” said Hobbs. “That’s why my office and the Attorney General’s office launched GIVESMART! to help consumers outsmart the scammers and make informed decisions about giving.”

The Office of the Secretary of State offers these GIVESMART! tips for people to consider before donating to any charity or fundraiser.

  • Do not give in to high-pressure solicitations demanding immediate commitment.

  • Check the Washington Corporations and Charities Filing System before donating to make sure the charity or fundraiser is registered, and view the Commercial Fundraiser Activity Report, which is updated frequently.

  • If an organization is registered, review its annual registration, including its federal tax-exempt status and financial information. If the organization is not registered, contact the Charities division at 800-332-4483.

  • Check the organization’s Better Business Bureau rating at Give.org.

  • If a third party is raising money for a charity, call the charity directly to make sure it authorized the solicitor to collect donations on its behalf.

  • Do not give any personal information over the phone to any charity, and do not give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you did not expect.


The U.S. Federal Trade Commission offers additional tips here. Visit sos.wa.gov/charities or call 800-332-4483 for more information. To file a complaint against a suspicious charity or fundraiser, go to atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.

Washington’s Office of the Secretary of State oversees a number of areas within state government, including managing state elections, registering corporations and charities, and governing the use of the state flag and state seal. The office also manages the State Archives and the State Library, documents extraordinary stories in Washington’s history through Legacy Washington, oversees the Combined Fund Drive for charitable giving by state employees, and administers the state’s Address Confidentiality Program to help protect survivors of crime.