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Fighting charity fraud, CT officials warn against bad actors ahead of holidays

With the holiday season approaching, officials are reminding donors and charities to take precautions against fraudsters.

COLCHESTER, Conn. — Editor's note: Video above originally aired May 13.

The holiday season is fast approaching, and so is the ramp-up in charitable donations. 

However, officials are reminding charities and donors to be wary of bad actors looking to take advantage of people's generosity. 

Attorney General William Tong and Department of Consumer Protection Commission Michelle Seagull are urging Connecticut charities and donors to be on alert for bad actors during this year’s International Charity Fraud Awareness Week.

“As we head into the holiday season and the prime time for charitable giving, it’s important for both charities and donors to be on alert for bad actors and scammers looking to swindle generous people out of their money,” said Tong. “The last two years have seen unprecedented hardships including the COVID-19 pandemic, high unemployment, and devastating floods, fires and hurricanes."

He continued: "While there are many good-hearted people who want to help, there are also scammers looking to take advantage of the situation. Be sure to do your homework and check whom you’re dealing with. Don’t give in to high-pressure tactics. And remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

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Protecting Your Charity:

Tong and Seagull said now, more than ever, charities need to be fraud aware and take steps to protect their assets, donations, and information from bad actors.

• Don’t click on links within unexpected or unsolicited emails and text messages.
• Always double-check who you’re working with. Criminals are experts at impersonating people and businesses.
• Thoroughly vet unsolicited offers of ‘free help’ or financial support where an advanced fee payment is required.
• Regularly check your charity’s bank statements to spot unusual or suspicious activity.

“For donors and charities alike, there are always people looking to take advantage of their good nature,” DCP Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull said. “Don’t be discouraged from giving this year, but do make sure you’re taking steps to guarantee your donations are used for what you intended. Do your research, be wary of unsolicited emails or texts for donations, and make sure any charity soliciting donations from you in the state of Connecticut is registered with the Department of Consumer Protection.”

 RELATED: Yes, scammers use e-signature services like DocuSign to send emails with malicious links

What about giving to charities? How do you know you're donating to a legitimate organization? 

• Do your homework. Before making a charitable donation, make sure you know who you are dealing with and what your donation will be used for. The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, or Guidestar are good resources for verifying a charity is legitimate.
• Charities soliciting in Connecticut must be registered with the Department of Consumer Protection. You can verify registration by visiting elicense.ct.gov.
• Don’t be pressured. Do not donate if the solicitor uses high-pressure tactics, asks for payment in cash or insists on sending someone to pick up your donation
• Be careful when giving out your personal information or credentials. Sometimes donors are required to make an account with their personal information in order to give to a charity. Those accounts can be compromised, and your information can be stolen.
• Keep records of your donations. If you donate by credit card, check your statements closely to make sure you’re charged only for what you agreed to donate.

RELATED: Yes, scammers do try to impersonate AT&T and many other companies in text messages

If you see a charity-related fraud, you can contact the attorney general by emailing attorney.general@ct.gov, or call 860-808-518. 

You can file a fraud complaint online as well with the attorney general's office. 

Consumers can also report instances of fraud to The Department of Consumer Protection by emailing dcp.complaints@ct.gov or by visiting www.ct.gov/DCP/complaints.

Jennifer Glatz is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jglatz@fox61.com. 

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