Safety Tip, Donations


How to Spot Fake Charity Donation Bins

With the holiday season right around the corner, Attorney General Mark Brnovich is encouraging Arizonans to do their research before donating to clothing and household item donation bins. Many donation bins support legitimate, non-profit charities and help the needy in our communities, however, some donation bins are run by for-profit businesses. Arizona consumers should be aware that most items donated to for-profit bins do not go to charitable causes.

“Like many Arizonans, I share the desire to help those in need and to donate to the less fortunate, especially around the holidays,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “But we want consumers to be educated and I encourage every person to do a little bit of homework before donating to make sure their donation is getting into the hands of the people who truly need it most.”

Many for-profit donation bin companies will sell the donated goods in thrift stores and keep the proceeds. Other companies will recycle damaged clothing, glassware, and other goods that are not suitable for resale into raw materials that are used in for-profit manufacturing. It is not uncommon to find a for-profit bin located next to a charitable bin, sometimes using similar sounding names or graphics of well-known charities. Some for-profit donation bins even use words like “veterans” or “children” in the title to prey on a donor’s charity.

Attorney General Brnovich offers the following advice:

  • Research and education are the most important ways to protect yourself. Before dropping off clothing or a household item donation, look closely at the name of the company and perform online research to see if the donated goods are sold for profit. Use websites like Charity Navigator, Guidestar, Charity Watch, and the Better Business Bureau to research a charity. These websites are good tools to find out how much of your donation is actually going to a charitable cause.
  • If a charity isn’t listed on a monitoring website like the ones above, research the company’s tax forms online. These forms are publicly available and will show how much money a charity actually donates.
  • Look for labeling or writing on the donation bins indicating where the donated items go and if they are resold for profit.
  • Any legitimate donation bin should have contact information on the bin. Before you donate, contact the charity and ask questions.
  • Ask for a tax receipt, this will give you the tax deduction you are entitled to and will help establish the legitimacy of the donation bin owner.

“Providing a helping hand to some of the most vulnerable in our community is a great virtue that we must not take lightly," added Attorney General Brnovich. "While some may try and take advantage of this goodwill, we must not deter from helping our fellow citizens through these true acts of kindness during the holidays. The key is to identify a charity you trust and to support them however you can.”

If you believe you have been the victim of consumer fraud, you can file a consumer complaint by contacting the Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763, in Tucson at (520) 628-6504, or outside the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas at 1(800) 352-8431. Bilingual consumer protection staff are available to assist. Consumers can also file complaints online by visiting the Attorney General’s website at https://www.azag.gov/complaints/consumer.


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