Idaho Falls, ID.   –   A woman and other participants who thought they had signed up for a June 4, 5K charity race in Idaho Falls, deemed the Heartshake Challenge, were shocked to discover the event had been cancelled with little to no warning. Many of the participants showed up the day of the event, only to find that there was no race in the area. One woman, who contacted the Better Business Bureau, called the listed sponsors of the event, but none of the purported sponsors had ever heard of the race.

A scam listing on the BBB Scam Tracker website lists the woman has having lost $90, which was the cost of the registration fee for the event. There are likely others who lost money when they paid fees, but it is unknown at this time if the event organizer will be reimburse any fees related to the event.

A website set up for the Heartstone Challenge race said that some of the proceeds for the event were to benefit a local charity called Heartstone, but a post on the Heartstone Facebook page states that the event was not an official sponsored event of the Hospice of Eastern Idaho/Heartstone. The charity also made it clear that they had nothing to do with the race and have no control over any fallout from the situation.

In recent years, the number of fun runs has exploded. Ads target everyone from advanced runners to beginners as well as people interested in supporting a cause. These runs, obstacle courses and other similar events promise fun and adventure and, often, a chance to help a charity. Many of them deliver, but many have also been cases of promoters simply creating an official-looking website in order to collect fees for runs that never happen.

The Better Business Bureau offers tips and suggestions on how to protect yourself when you are considering participation in a similar event or race:

– Do your research. Check out the race organizer’s BBB Business Profile at bbb.org and look online for additional information before signing up. Read customer reviews from runners who have participated in previous races or events.

– Don’t be fooled by a well-designed website. Scammers can easily create an official-looking website. Look for misspellings or poor grammar, which is a sign you might be dealing with fraudsters.

– Check with the local venue. Contact the park or host venue to confirm that the event is on the calendar and organizers have gotten the correct permits.

– Pay with a credit card. Credit cards give you protection for charges disputed according to the terms of your financial institution. Debit cards generally come with shorter time-lines for fighting charges and minimum fees. Never pay by wire or pre-paid money card.

– Understand terms and conditions. If the website says there are no refunds, buyer beware. It’s your responsibility to read the fine print before hitting “I agree” when making a purchase or registering for a race.

– Keep documentation of your order. After completing the online registration process, you should receive a confirmation receipt. Print out and keep a copy of the confirmation and any supporting documentation for future reference.

– Check out the charity. While the organizers of many runs are for-profit businesses, some may advertise a charitable partner. If race organizers claim a portion of the proceeds will go to charity, ask for more details. Contact the charity to make sure there’s a connection. Research give.org to make sure your donation is going to a trustworthy charity. Be wary of sound-alike names similar to those of more established charities.