State’s fraud prevention benefits public

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Washington state has been fortunate that, over the years, its attorneys general and secretaries of state have been staunch consumer advocates. Their focus on helping citizens avoid being bilked has undoubtedly saved Washingtonians emotional pain, embarrassment and, of course, money

Washingtonians have access to a website (sos.wa.gov/charities/donors.aspx) with a lot of information about possible scams and a database that allows citizens to find out if a charity is legitimate.

The state has a new attorney general, Bob Ferguson, and secretary of state, Kim Wyman, and they have picked up right where their predecessors left off.

Ferguson, a Democrat, and Wyman, a Republican, are now warning consumers to be wary of individuals who solicit donations on behalf of charities in front of retailers because they are not always what they seem.

“Increasingly the solicitors are asking for charity donations outside of retail stores,” reads a joint news release. “The solicitors often set up a table at a store entrance or exit ... The AGO Consumer Protection Division and the OSOS Charities Program have reason to believe the solicitors personally pocket most of the money instead of giving it to the intended charity.”

This does not mean donations should not be made to those at storefronts, it just means caution — as always — should be used.

Ferguson and Wyman simply suggest consumers do some research before reaching for their wallets. That can be as simple as asking a few questions, such how the money will be used and whether the solicitor is registered with the Secretary of State’s Office.

“People can’t assume that every charity registered with our program operates legally or in good faith,” Wyman said in a media release. “When we discover illegal activity we quickly coordinate with the Attorney General’s Office so they can try to put a stop to it.”

The website has information that can help consumers determine if they’ve been cheated and how to file a formal complaint.

The Attorney General’s Office and Secretary of State’s Office are agressive in fraud prevention than many states. Washingtonians should be glad they do.

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