SALT LAKE CITY - In the wake of the Washington State mud slide tragedy, donors are urged to beware of scammers.
“While our neighbors in Washington deal with a tragic recovery effort after the (March 22) mud slide, brazen fraudsters will be busy looking for ways to profit off Utah’s generous reputation,” warned Francie A. Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce.
The Centerville residents offered tips for consumers on ways to avoid “charity” scams:
- Donate to charities with a track record and a history. Charities that spring up overnight may disappear just as quickly, especially on the internet or via social media sites, or through email solicitations.
- Watch out for similar-sounding names. Some phony charities use names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations. If you notice a small difference from the name of the charity you intend to deal with, call the organization you know to check it out. Check out an organization before donating. Some phony charities use names, seals and logos that look or sound like those of respected, legitimate organizations.
- Do not send or give cash donations. For security and tax record purposes, it is best to pay by check made payable to the charity.
- Don’t fall for high pressure appeals. Legitimate fund raisers generally don’t push you to give on the spot.
- Be wary of charities offering to send a courier or delivery service to collect your donation. This should be a “red flag” as legitimate charities don’t use these services.
- Call the charity. Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. If not, you may be dealing with a scam artist.
- Get it in writing. Ask for a receipt showing the amount of your contribution.
- Don’t be swayed by prize offers. Be wary of promises of guaranteed sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. You never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.
- Know the difference between “tax exempt” and “tax deductible.” Tax exempt means the group doesn’t have to pay taxes. Tax deductible means you can deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return.
- Check with state regulators. Call the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 to see if the charity or fund raising group has to be registered in Utah or log on to www.consumerprotection.utah.gov.