Guard Against Fraud This Holiday Season
While the holiday season is often the most charitable, consumers are encouraged to be vigilant and watch out for scams aimed at taking advantage of their good will.

For your protection, the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Charitable Organizations maintains a publicly accessible online database which contains all legally established charities in Pennsylvania. Consumers are encouraged to verify the legitimacy of any charity using this database prior to donating at

To learn more about an organization prior to donating or to report suspected fraud, call the bureau’s toll-free telephone hotline at 1-800-732-0999.

The Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations has some helpful tips on how to protect yourself while giving during the holiday season:

• Do not hesitate to request written information from the charity regarding its programs and finances. Be aware of statements such as “every penny will go to the charity.” All charities have expenses, so check carefully and know where your money goes.
• If solicited in person, always ask to see the solicitor’s identification. Don’t feel pressured into giving on the spot or allowing someone to come to your house to pick up the contribution.
• Never commit to donate over the phone unless you are familiar with the organization. Hang up on aggressive or harassing solicitors.
• Never give cash, credit card numbers or bank account numbers. Always write a check payable to the charity so you have a record of the donation.
• Don’t feel guilty about not supporting all the charities that ask you for a contribution.

There is no doubt that giving makes us feel good during the holidays or any time of year. But please remember to make those donations by using both your head and your heart, and avoid becoming a scam victim.

I sometimes use this column to answer your questions regarding any state government-related matter. Please email them to me at As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Representative Tarah Toohil
116th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office
717.260.6136 /