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News Blog

Regulators Warn of Wildfire Scammers

by Eric S. Peterson
- Posted // 2013-08-21 -

There haven't been reports yet of con artists seeking bogus donations for recent wildfire victims, but historically, shysters know how to make a buck off of tragedy. That's why regulators at the Utah Division of Consumer Protection are offering tips on knowing how to distinguish the do-gooders from the douche bags.

With recent wildfires in Summit County burning residents out of their homes, various groups are looking to raise funds to help the victims get back on their feet. According to the Utah Division of Consumer Protections, however, scammers are also setting up fake charities to prey on the goodwill of Utahns by seeking donations to bogus relief funds.Fly-by-night contractors have also been known to approach victims, such as those whose homes may have received fire damage, for “discount” repairs, when the contractor may not be licensed at all in the state.

“It just takes five minutes to make sure your contractor is licensed or to check that your donation is going to a charity registered with the state,” said Utah Department of Commerce Director Francine Giani in a recent press release.

The Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing has resources for consumers approached by door-to-door contractors.

You can search a contractor by name to see if they've been disciplined by the state for illegal or unethical practices by clicking here, and you can also verify a contractor's license by clicking here.

If you are approached by a contractor, regulators also recommend making sure to get any contract for work in writing and not fall for any pitch that they must sign up for work immediately to get cheap materials and labor. Consumers can also call DOPL with any questions at 801-530-6626.

Those seeking charity donations should be registered with the state, in one form or another. A good question to ask of someone seeking donations would be: “Does your organization have a permit to solicit donations?” If they say yes, then you should be able to verify that with Consumer Protections. Or if they say no, that they have an exemption, that should also be easy to verify. Those representing charities can also be checked out easily by visiting the Utah Division of Consumer Protections or by calling 801-530-6601.

Photo courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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