With a new humanitarian crisis catalyzed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a lot of people are seeking ways to help. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and the Wisconsin Department of Financial Intuitions (DFI) are warning consumers to do research before donating money to a charity. Phone and online scams are seeking to exploit sympathy for Ukrainians victimized by the Russian invasion.

“Scammers see tragedies as a way to line their pockets at the expense of well-meaning citizens,” said Lara Sutherlin, administrator for DATCP’s Division of Trade and Consumer Protection. “Give generously to a charity if you are inclined, but always research an organization before sending money.”

Michelle Knuese, administrator for DFI’s Division of Corporate and Consumer Services, echoed the warning. “We certainly encourage generosity to help the people in Ukraine but caution donors to avoid questionable appeals,” said Knuese. “With a little research and a few precautions, you can help protect yourself from scammers and make sure you are donating to a legitimate charity.”

Fake charity scams can come from a phone call, through the mail, or online. Mimicking the names of major established charities, the scams often seem convincing. Consumers are encouraged to pay attention to whether web addresses end in .org or .com — since the latter indicates that the organization is not a nonprofit charitable group. Scammers also utilize social media and send out spam text messages that can also expose phones and computers to malware and hacking. If a charity was created since the invasion began, be particularly cautious, experts warn.

If you want to verify that a charity is real, try to find contact information for the charity besides the number or email address which initiated the pitch. You can also check to see if a charity is registered in Wisconsin by visiting DFI’s website. Complaints can be filed at the DATCP website, or by emailing DATCPHotline@wisconsin.gov.

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