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Scammer Season Is Upon Us

At this time of year, criminals and con artists often impersonate legitimate charities in an effort to get your cash. Credit: amanalang/iStockphoto
At this time of year, criminals and con artists often impersonate legitimate charities in an effort to get your cash. Credit: amanalang/iStockphoto
December 9, 2015

MADISON, Wis. – Give, but don't get taken, is the advice from a consumer advocate about holiday charitable giving.

Frank Frassetto, administrator of the Wisconsin Division of Trade and Consumer Protection, says scammers can lay it on pretty thick during the holidays. They have a time-tested bag of tricks to use in trying to get people to open their wallets.

"This time of year is one where people are very generous and are looking for opportunities to support good causes," Fraasetto says, "and what often happens is, individuals may be solicited by con artists."

If you're contacted by phone, he explains, don't hesitate to ask the caller to send you information about their charity in the mail, and avoid being pressured to make an immediate donation over the phone or Internet. He adds if the solicitor is hesitant in any way to explain the organization or its programs, it's best to hang up the phone or delete the email message.

According to Frassetto, another good technique if there's any doubt about whether a caller actually represents a certain charity or organization, is to hang up and call the charity or organization directly, to find out if they are using phone solicitors.

"The other thing you can do is to get hold of the Department of Financial Institutions, at WDFI.org, and search and find out whether or not the fundraiser or charity is registered in Wisconsin to do business," he says.

Frassetto advises consumers to never write out a check or give cash to an individual solicitor. Instead, write checks to the name of the organization or use a credit card.

Criminals know that many people make year-end contributions for tax purposes, and Frassetto says they may use that as a ploy to con you into a donation, promising a tax receipt that is never provided. He says con artists use a variety of techniques to try and part you from your money.

"They may thank you for a pledge that you have no recollection of ever making before," he says. "And of course, if they're using high-pressure tactics – like trying to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to think about it – I would step back and seriously consider whether or not you want to send money to this particular charity."

The Wisconsin Consumer Information Hotline is 800-422-7128.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI