How to avoid giving to a scammer posing as a charity

Dec 28, 2023, 11:16 PM | Updated: Dec 29, 2023, 11:36 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Charities all around the world are hopeful that you will be generous as the year wraps up.

How do you know if someone with their hand out is on the up and up? It’s a good question, with a not-always-clear answer, according to Katie Hart, director of the Utah Division of Consumer Protection.

“I would say that if you do not want to give to a scammer, and you’re worried about that, I would start with registered charities,” Hart said.

To raise money for charity in Utah, legally, you are supposed to register with the division. That list of registered charities can be found on the division’s website.

There is also a growing gray area between a bona fide charity and a scammer. Crowd-sourcing websites and apps allow someone to raise money supposedly for a charitable reason.

“We do not regulate those,” Hart said. “I would almost call that the wild west of donations.”

Hart said crowd-sourcing can be a “phenomenal” way to connect people who want to help with people in need, but cautions there is always the chance your donation won’t make it.

“With those ones, if I decide I really want to support something, I maybe give $10. It has to be an amount that if I lost it, I’m not going to be devastated by that,” Hart said.

Consumer Protection says when giving to anyone, ask questions: like “What specific charity is your donation going to?”

Hart also recommended paying with a credit card so the money can be traced. If it’s a high-pressure situation, walk away.

“It’s OK to say no,” Hart said.

If you feel you have given money to someone that you suspect may have pocketed it, Hart said call the Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 during normal business hours.

Hart said a robust investigative team looks into all sorts of misrepresentations.

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How to avoid giving to a scammer posing as a charity