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SALT LAKE CITY — Officials are warning Utahns to be wary if they get an email, phone call or solicitation through social media regarding what’s happening in Ukraine.
Scammers are using the situation to steal money from unsuspecting people. Emails are already circulating in Utah asking for money to help the Ukrainian people protect their government against Russia.
A copy of an email sent to KSL claims to be from Ukraine and asks people to send money to help feed the hungry and buy warm clothing for those living in the Crimea region.
“Dear American people. Ukrainian peoples appeals to You. Peoples who urgently need's your help,” reads part of an email KSL obtained. “We, the ordinary citizens of Ukraine , urgently need your help. Financial assistance. Our country has been ruined, the coffers no money... we appeal to you, ordinary citizens requesting financial assistance. We hope for your understanding and possible support.”
Daniel O’Bannon, the director of Utah's Division of Consumer Protection, took a look at the email and found many red flags. He said scammers follow the headlines and pounce on opportunities to try and get money.
“It shows how people can take advantage of situations where we are concerned about our fellow human beings after a disaster, after a crisis,” O'Bannon said.
Watch out for spelling and grammar errors and be wary any time someone employs high-pressure tactics to get you to send money right away, O'Bannon said. Utahns need to do their homework, he added, and make sure a charity is reputable before giving away their money. They can verify a charity using the Division of Commerce's charity database.
It shows how people can take advantage of situations where we are concerned about our fellow human beings after a disaster, after a crisis... As much as we want to assist other people, we need to make sure we are not lining the pockets of fraudsters.
“As much as we want to assist other people, we need to make sure we are not lining the pockets of fraudsters,” he said.
This email scam comes on the heels of the 16th Annual National Consumer Protection Week. Utah's Department of Commerce released the top 10 consumer complaints this week.
“Aggressive fraudsters continue to follow news headlines and try to trap consumers with offers too good to refuse,” Francine A. Giani, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Commerce, said in a March 3 press release. “Consumers need to be vigilant in protecting their identity, personal information and finances by asking questions and always getting the terms in writing.”
The top three complaints in Utah for 2013 were for debt collection; imposter scams; and banks and lenders, according to a 2013 Federal Trade Commission report. O'Bannon offered advice on how to protect against telemarketing scams.
“Make sure your phone numbers and those of your loved ones are on the National Do Not Call Registry,” O'Bannon said in the press release. “It just takes minutes to register, includes cellphone numbers and never expires.”
For more information on the National Consumer Protection Week, visit www.ncpw.gov. Utahns can file consumer complaints with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at www.consumerprotection.utah.gov.
Contributing: Shara Park and Tracie Snowder