This is National Consumer Protection Week, and Montana's Attorney General Austin Knutsen has offered three tips to Montanans to help avoid scams. The schemes are getting more devious and the Office of Consumer Protection has ways to help people weave their way through the bad deals to find a good one.

Knudsen said in a news release, "Scammers are more active than ever and show no signs of slowing down. Montanans can take steps to protect themselves and loved ones so that their hard-earned money and identities are not used by con artists and criminals."

His first tip: If you want to help COVID-19 related charities, make sure it's an established group. "Pop-up" charities might not even be able to help locally and could just be collecting money for something illegal.

The second tip: Online dating sites and mobile apps of all types are prime areas for scammers. Don't send money to someone you don't know, including someone you've only met online or on the phone. Fake profiles are all over the place. Scammers work on your emotions to get your money. They are often successful.

The third tip: Don't send money to a "government" agent who is threatening to arrest you. The calls seem to be legitimate from the IRS or law enforcement, with a caller ID that looks official. They have done their homework and know your name, address and other personal information. Then, they tell you what needs be done to avoid jail time. They ask you to send money with a prepaid debit card or a wire transfer. They get your money and disappear.

To report a scam, there is an online reporting form from the Montana Office of Consumer Protection. And there is a legit phone number - (406) 444-4500. And, if you don't trust that avenue, let your local law enforcement agency know. By the way, the Montana Attorney Generals' Office in Helena is at (406 444-2026.

And remember, you are not alone. In 2020, the Office of Consumer Protection recovered over $325,000 in losses and prevented another half a million dollars that could've been lost in scams.

LOOK: Here are 25 ways you could start saving money today

These money-saving tips—from finding discounts to simple changes to your daily habits—can come in handy whether you have a specific savings goal, want to stash away cash for retirement, or just want to pinch pennies. It’s never too late to be more financially savvy. Read on to learn more about how you can start saving now. [From: 25 ways you could be saving money today]

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