Charity scams—too good to be true

It didn’t surprise me to read that each Canadian donated an average of $487 in 2011. If there’s one thing I can say about Canadians, they’re a kind and generous bunch.

But being so generous can mean that people are more at risk of falling for scams. With the Christmas holiday period here, fraudulent charities are a common way for fraudsters to ply their trade.

It’s important to recognize that scam victims aren’t just the vulnerable, but everyday people.

So how can you avoid being taken for a ride by a fraudulent charity?

Here are our top tips:

Pay attention and use your common sense: Fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated and their scams look more legitimate. If something smells fishy, double check.

If someone turns up at your doorstep or calls your phone without prior warning, ask for proof of identity including the charity’s registered name, address and telephone number. You can also verify whether a charity is registered with the Canada Revenue Agency.

If you receive an unexpected e-mail from a charity, consider whether it’s a real or fraudulent e-mail. Some scammers set up clone websites. You can often tell by running your mouse over the web or e-mail address, as they may not match the official website or e-mail address. If you still aren’t sure, you can call the charity’s official number and ask them about it.

Don’t feel bad by asking questions. Ask where your donation goes within the charity, how much that person is earning from the donation revenue and how much is going to the cause.

Be careful how you pay. Don’t make large cash donations directly to a person. Instead, pay by cheque addressed directly to the charity.

If you’ve been a victim of a scam, report it. This might help prevent the fraudsters from taking advantage of other people.

This information is for informative purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice.
Lachlan was a Consumer Lawyer in Australia and is now a SPIN reporter and snowboard bum at Sun Peaks.

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