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SALT LAKE CITY – Social media is full of people asking for money to help the people of Ukraine. Even the official Ukraine Twitter account has been soliciting donations.
Alas, among the well-meaning fundraisers, inevitably, there are also scammers looking to line their own pockets.
"Unfortunately, anytime there's a wide scale event, anytime there's a worldwide event, scammers see an opportunity," said Zach Whitney, communication director for the Utah Department of Commerce.
In Utah, the state keeps a database of charities which are registered with the state.
By law, to raise money in Utah a charity must register with the state, with a few exceptions.
Whitney said checking that database before you give is the best way to avoid giving to a scammer.
"It's a way to verify that they are actually doing what they say they're going to do and that they're actually using the money the way they say they're going to use that money," Whitney said.
Utah's searchable charity database shows where a charity is headquartered, as well as what percentage of the money raised goes to the program for which the charity collects said money.
Unfortunately, anytime there's a wide scale event, anytime there's a worldwide event, scammers see an opportunity.
–Zach Whitney, Utah Department of Commerce
Legal or not, a lot of money is not raised through an official charity but rather through a private bank account or private webpage. In those cases, Whitney said there is no way for regulators to know where that money is going.
Whitney said taking a few moments to do a little research before you open your wallet to help with the Ukraine conflict, or any other situation that may compel you is crucial.
"As a society, our hearts go out to those people, and we want to help," Whitney said. "We need to be careful about how we help."
In addition to verifying a charity's registration, charity watchdog Charity Watch suggests giving directly because middlemen usually take a cut.
Also, do not let yourself be pressured into contributing on the spot.
"No legitimate organization will pressure you to give immediately," says the Charity Watch website.