They're already out there -the scammers. Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is warning Montanans to be careful if they're donating to Ukraine relief efforts - whether on the phone or online.

The current crisis in Ukraine is a perfect situation for scammers, according to Knudsen, who said last week, "Scammers are always ready to use the latest crisis to try and take advantage of Montanans' goodwill...always do your research before donating, so that your money goes to the right place, and contact our Office of Consumer Protection if you suspect a scam."

Knudsen's office has been issuing recommendations for people who get requests for donations, which have been increasing in recent months to include the Ukraine issue. Almost all of them have similar tactics. They pressure you to donate as soon as possible and sometimes want you to use wire transfers or gift cards.

Find out more about who you're dealing with

Many charities register with the IRS. Check this site for a list.

Charities can be researched at Charity Navigator and Charity Watch. They both have specific information on Ukraine charities.

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Concerning phone calls, there are federal rules that legitimate charities must follow when making calls. For instance, they should only call between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Scams are all over the place

Knudsen recently issued similar warnings during National Consumer Protection Week, when he highlighted scams on real estate listings, ammunition and firearms sales, and even pet adoptions. Again, the rule you should always follow in almost everything in life - If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

There is help in our state, though. Knudsen said Montanans can report any phone, mail or email scams to the Montana Department of Justice's Office of Consumer Protection. You can call 406 444-4500 or toll free at 800 481-6896.

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