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December 08, 2021

Are charity scams on the rise?

It’s a sad fact that we live in a world where charity scams seem to be on the increase.

Charity Just last week, Tina Michele Sammons, a healthy 37-year-old woman from Victoria, was brought up on fraud charges after she allegedly told everyone she could find that she had severe brain cancer and needed money to fight it.

How much did she snag from well-meaning donors? About $300,000, at last count.

Despite the fact that most charities are on the up and up, there are several types of scams kicking around just now.

The first is the obvious one, the bogus charity. It’s not that difficult to create a name, print a letterhead and invent a pseudo charity number. And it’s not that difficult to write a nice, gently pleading letter to shake loose a few dollars.

Secondly, direct marketing is a good source for scammers, whether they elicit money through softly spoken people working the phones, or send dubious emails.

Thirdly, particularly at this time of year, is the street scam, with collectors calling on people in their homes, or standing on street corners, giving out envelopes, or rattling tins.

If you’re in any doubt, ask to see I.D, note the name and number of the charity and ask them a few questions. If you’re still not convinced, then say you’d prefer to donate at the source, at a later date. And never allow any front-step caller into your home.

Bogus charities are actually easier to cope with than solicitors pretending to be from a recognized charity. They can be checked out quite readily since all Canadian charities have to be registered with the CRA. Or try the Canadian Book of Charities.

If you’re looking for a more thorough background check though, try out Charity Intelligence. The service, designed primarily for foundations and larger donors, regularly scopes out charities, posting "buy signals" on its website so the public can take advantage of its research into where the money goes and how effectively it's spent.

Have you been stung by a bogus charity or someone simply misrepresenting themselves? What was the aftermath? Did this taint your view of charitable giving in general?

By Gordon Powers



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...