Scam alert (copy)

State officials are urging the public to be aware of possible scams related to charitable donations connected to the Ukraine invasion and of investment concerns connected to the conflict.

Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings, the DOJ’s Consumer Protection Unit and the DOJ’s Investor Protection Unit recently issued cautionary advisories for consumers and investors related to the risk of scams, cyberattacks and investment threats related to the conflict in Ukraine.

Jennings and the Consumer Protection Unit advised Delawareans to be vigilant about scams and fraud in connection with charitable efforts to support the people of Ukraine. Scammers will capitalize on the worst of human suffering to steal and fraudulently obtain money, they said, and the DOJ recommends that all Delawareans exercise diligence against scams associated with, and fraudulent solicitations made on behalf of, charities claiming to aid the victims of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It speaks volumes of our neighbors that so many Delawareans have taken action to help the Ukrainian people,” said Jennings. “Unfortunately, scammers are shameless and see a crisis as an opportunity. To protect yourself, and to ensure that your donations reach people in need, everyone should take steps to ensure that their contributions go to legitimate causes. My office will do its part in ensuring that those who seek to profit from the pain and suffering of the Ukrainian people are investigated and brought to justice.”

Delawareans were advised to consider a number of suggstions before making a donation to a charitable organization purporting to be working to stave off the injuries currently being felt by the Ukrainian people:

  • Slow down. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to give immediately. It’s better to make a slower but more effective donation than it is to make a quick donation that provides little effective support to the cause you’re trying to help.
  • Know who you’re giving to and what your money will do. Research charities online, including reviewing their websites and independent evaluators, like Charity Navigator, GuideStar and the Better Business Bureau. Focus on the charity’s stated purpose and how much they spend on overhead, employee compensation and fundraising. If the charity is unfamiliar, contact the charity and ask for this information in writing.
  • Check for charity filings. Consumers should also search for the charity on the IRS website or look for the charity’s 990 tax filings. That will help confirm that the charity is a legitimate 501(c)(3) charity.
  • Know who’s asking. If you receive a call from a telemarketer or other solicitation that you did not expect, ask the same questions you would research about their organization online. Callers refusing give you those answers, or pressuring you into make an immediate donation, could be a red flag about red flags.
  • Be cautious about social fundraising requests. You shouldn’t assume that because a friend or family member has donated to an organization that they have done their research. Ask! This is doubly true for social media and network solicitations.
  • Watch out for similar names and websites. Fraudulent charities might mimic or parrot the names of familiar charities, hoping that unsuspecting donors will mistake a fraudulent organization for a legitimate one. Always double-check website names and URLs to confirm that the organization is legitimate, and pay attention to follow-up solicitations about pledges you never made or websites you never visited.
  • Protect your identity. Never give someone your Social Security number in connection with a charitable donation, and never give out any other personal information to a charity that you have not researched.
  • Report it. If you believe that you have been victimized or identified such a fraudulent practice, please report it to the DOJ’s Fraud Division at de.gov/consumercomplaint or 1-800-220-5424.

Jennings and the DOJ’s Investor Protection Unit are also cautioning investors and securities firms to be wary of increased threats from cyberattacks and potential investment scams due to the escalating conflict in Ukraine.

“Difficult times can bring out the best in people, but unfortunately there are also bad actors looking to exploit crises to scam investors,” Jennings. “Investors and firms alike should make sure they are taking the steps necessary to safeguard financial information and are on the lookout for potential investment scams and cybersecurity breaches.”

The Investor Protection Unit offered tips for investors:

  • Be skeptical of investment opportunities linked to the headlines. “We are all aware of the rising costs of energy and fuel. Fraudsters may seek to take advantage of the rising gas prices to try and pitch extremely risky or bogus investments within the energy sector including possible oil and gas deals.”
  • Do your homework. Given the recent volatility in the financial markets, investors are likely concerned about their retirement accounts. Unscrupulous promoters may look to prey on this concern and attempt to convince investors to leave the regulated markets in favor of “less volatile” or “stable” investment opportunities. Investors are being cautioned to investigate the background of the person and firm offering the investment and the investment itself. Check with the Investor Protection Unit to determine if the person is registered to sell investments and if the investment has been registered. Consult with your financial professional before making decisions to sell any of your investments.
  • Monitor your accounts regularly and take steps to protect your financial data. Be sure to keep an eye on your brokerage, bank, and credit card statements to spot potential fraudulent or suspicious transactions. Contact your financial professional, bank or credit card issuer immediately if you see any questionable transaction or charge. Take steps to protect your financial data such as updating passwords and using dual-factor authentication when it is available.

Investors with questions may contact the Investor Protection Unit at (302) 577-8424.