In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Utah Department of Commerce is urging locals to be on the lookout for scam artists seeking to pick people's pockets by playing off the devastation on the East Coast.
The Division of Consumer Protection urges Utahns to check into the background of charitable organizations seeking donations for victims of the hurricane. Since Oct. 29, spam e-mail attacks with lines including the words hurricane_sandy, coast-sandy and sandy_superstorm have been hitting people's inboxes in alarming quantities.
According to a press release, security experts predict that "phishing scams and malware-infested sites will look to profit from fake news reports, e-mail links to dramatic video and photos from Sandy, as well as online jobs or financial opportunities that use the recent super storm as a bait to draw consumers online."
Commerce's executive director Francine Giani noted that "a charity's first priority is to help victims, not solicit donations. Don't let an unknown person or group pressure you into donating over the phone."
Tips to avoid giving money to fraudsters include:
1. If you want to donate, look for a charity with a track record and history. Overnight wonders may well vanish just as quickly as they appeared
2. If you have any doubt about whether you've made a pledge or contribution, check your records. If you can't remember making the donation or pledge, resist the pressure to give
3. Do a little research on a charity before donating. A phony charity may use names, seals or logos to appear authentic.
4. Check with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or at their website www.consumerprotection.utah.gov, which has a searchable charity database, to see if a particular charity is registered in Utah and how much of any donation goes to the charity's end user.
5. Don't send or give cash. Pay by check both for security and tax record purposes.
6. Ask for a receipt showing what you gave.