SALT LAKE CITY — The breast cancer awareness campaign has become so mainstream that there are billions made in donations each year. But some people who think they are donating to the cause are actually being scammed.
There have been no reported charity scams targeting breast cancer funds in the state of Utah, but the scams exist. And experts are cautioning donors to do their homework before donating to these charities.
The Utah Department of Health show that breast cancer is the leading cancer death among women in Utah, with Utah being the second lowest screening rate in the country for breast cancer.
Every dollar donated is needed to help raise awareness, and scams could set back any progress made to change Utah's numbers.
"(Scammers) are taking our chances of providing more and more services for the community," said Pascoalina Dunham, a five-year breast cancer survivor.
Dunham makes house calls along the Wasatch Front educating women on beating the disease.
"To have women go get screened for real, so we can reduce the number of women dying in Utah," Dunham said.
Dunham also runs a support group for breast cancer survivors and their families at Alliance Community Services.
"Frankly, if those groups are not on our website, I would be very weary and concerned about giving, because that means they have not gone through the appropriate checks."
"I get calls almost everyday, and I talk to them just to give them some emotion support," Dunham added.
The National Institutes of Health estimates it will have spent more than $700 million by the end of the year. The Department of Defense spends approximately $120 million, which is twice the money committed to all other types of cancer. Many large organizations, including Susan G. Komen, pour even more money into research for a cure.
Scammers clearly find that money tempting, and there have been reports in other states of fake charities preying on donors' sympathies. Dunham said she hopes to never see that happen in Utah.
Francine Giani, who works for Utah's Department of Commerce said anyone trying to solicit donations from residents in Utah must be approved through the Department of Commerce.
"Frankly, if those groups are not on our website, I would be very weary and concerned about giving, because that means they have not gone through the appropriate checks," Giani said.
As with any donations, state officials ask donors to do their homework first. Look for established organizations with a proven track record.