Last week, Rosie Rodriguez received a call from someone who claimed to be able to bring in a family member from outside the country and teach them English.

It's one of several calls from suspicious charities, many claiming to teach English to immigrants, that prompted Rodriguez, a Layton resident, to call authorities.

"They are wanting cash," she said. "They demand you talk Spanish. They will not answer any questions as far as what's your name, where are you calling from, what is your agency?"

The Division of Consumer Protection has received several complaints similar to Rodriguez's about a new charity scam that targets Spanish-speaking Utahns, said Francine A. Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce.

"Utah citizens are known for their charitable spirit, especially around the holidays," Giani said in a statement. "Make sure your donations are going to a legitimate cause by taking two minutes to check them out on our Consumer Protection Web site."

In this particular scam, individuals with Hispanic names are targeted. Callers ask if anyone in the home speaks Spanish, and if they do, the callers claim to represent a charity that teaches English, said Jennifer Bolton, Commerce Department spokeswoman. They ask for between $100 and $1,000, to be sent via Western Union, and claim that for $2,000, they'll bring in relatives from Mexico, Bolton said. Investigators discovered the numbers those callers were using belonged to prepaid cell phones.

"They say they want to help your brothers and sisters live a better life and live the American dream," Bolton said. "It's a new twist on an old scam."

To avoid holiday scams, Bolton suggested checking out Utah charities at www.consumerprotection.utah.gov, clicking on the "Education" link and selecting "Registered Charities."

Other sites that can be helpful in evaluating charities are www.irs.gov, which lists all organizations that are authorized to accept tax-deductible donations; www.guidestar.org, which provides copies of most charities' tax returns; and the Better Business Bureau, at www.give.org.

"Before you open your wallet, just check them out," Bolton said. "It's all public information."


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