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Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a warning Monday about a possible uptick in scammers posing as charities during the COVID-19 outbreak.

"Minnesotans are generous people at regular times," Ellison said in a statement. "At this extraordinary time, we're more inclined than ever to help others … but we also have to be careful."

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A spokesman said the office has had an uptick recently in e-mail phishing complaints, but doesn't know if those are related to charity scams; the office is trying to get out the word before scams occur.

Last week, Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order barring price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic and Ellison's office deployed a consumer protection unit to investigate claims for miracle cures and suspected links to malware and price gouging on products like hand sanitizer, face masks and rice.

Before donating through social media or online, research the organizer and how the money will be used, or donate directly through a charity's own website. Most organizations that solicit donations in the state have to register with the Attorney General's Office. Checks be done online at ag.state.mn.us to see if an organization is registered.

Because of the coronavirus, residents can't report complaints in person at the St. Paul office and are encouraged to file complaints online or at 651-296-3353 or 1-800-657-3787.

Additional tips are available from the Charities Review Council, a St. Paul nonprofit evaluator, at smartgivers.org.

KELLY SMITH