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Beware of wildfire scams, agency warns

Published: Sunday, Aug. 2 2015 3:04 p.m. MDT

The Utah Division of Consumer Protection is warning the public to be on the lookout for possible wildfire-related scams. Regulators are asking the public to be wary of solicitations for donations from groups or people posing as repair contractors. (Shutterstock.com) The Utah Division of Consumer Protection is warning the public to be on the lookout for possible wildfire-related scams. Regulators are asking the public to be wary of solicitations for donations from groups or people posing as repair contractors. (Shutterstock.com)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Consumer Protection is warning the public to be on the lookout for possible wildfire-related scams.

While no reports of fraud have reached the agency, regulators are asking the public to be wary of door-to-door solicitations for donations from groups or people posing as contractors offering cut-rate repair services.

“Sadly, Utah’s wildfires have left many property owners in a very vulnerable situation. Even though you may be in a hurry to make home repairs, don’t let others take advantage the second time around,” warned Francine Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce. “It just takes five minutes to make sure your contractor is licensed or to check that your donation is going to a charity registered with the state.”

Tips to avoid wildfire-related scams include making sure any contractor offering fire repair services is licensed with the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing by calling 801-530-6626 or visiting www.dopl.utah.gov. Consumers may also check to see if an individual or company has faced prior disciplinary action through the DOPL website.

Contract terms should be in writing, Giani said. She also advises homeowners not to fall for high-pressure sales tactics when someone shows up at the door promising cheap materials and labor.

Regarding solicitations for donations to groups or charities, the agency suggested donating to charities with a track record and history. Charities that spring up overnight may disappear just as quickly — especially on the Internet, according to the Utah Department of Commerce.

Check out an organization before donating, the agency stated. Some phony charities use names, seals and logos that look or sound like those of respected, legitimate organizations, Giani explained.

Do not send or give cash donations, she said. For security and tax purposes, it is best to pay by check made payable to the charity, she added, and ask for a receipt showing the amount of your contribution.

The agency also warned to be wary of promises of guaranteed sweepstakes winnings in exchange for charitable contributions.

For more information, contact the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or visit www.consumerprotection.utah.gov.

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