In the wake of this summer’s wildfires, and with the holiday season here, many legitimate organizations are fundraising in order to help those in need, or raise much-needed funds for themselves. British Columbians have a strong spirit of giving; but people need to be careful about who they give money to.
“We’ve received information lately about someone claiming to be raising money for BC Search and Rescue, when in fact they never solicit for donations this way,” says Evan Kelly, senior communications advisor for Better Business Bureau serving Mainland BC. “It’s not uncommon for scammers to use the names of legitimate organizations to take money from people.”
Kelly says that “When bad stuff happens, people open their wallets. But Search and Rescue organizations in B.C. are funded by the province. They don’t ask for funding.” He adds that the BBB has received reports from people saying that someone purporting to be from the police has phoned, asking for funds on behalf of another charitable organization. The police do not do this, he advises.
Local fire departments also do not call to solicit funds. While some agencies, such as the Red Cross, do occasionally come door-to-door, Kelly says that canvassing seems to be dying out. “Fundraising has moved online and to social media.”
He also says that anyone canvassing—either in person or on the phone—should have the mission and vision statements of the group “tattooed on the inside of their eyelids,” should know the charity’s registration number, and should be able to issue a tax receipt. Not knowing, or being able to provide, any of this should send up a red flag.
If you are asked to donate money, consult the information about registered charities maintained by the Canada Revenue Agency at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/charities/. Ask yourself if the call could be fake, and avoid giving impulsively; hang up and contact the organization directly. And keep your emotions in check if the call relates to a local disaster. Giving to known charities you have donated to in the past is always a good idea.
When it comes to charity websites, watch out for bad grammar, fuzzy images, and social media links that don’t work, and make sure that the website has https// in the URL. Fake websites with the right look and feel can be set up quickly, so be the instigator and go to the website yourself and avoid any spam.
Kelly says to beware of crowdfunding. Crooks like setting up these sites to raise money for themselves under the guise of help. “Be very careful of crowdfunding sites. They’re not an agency, and they can’t issue tax receipts.”
If someone comes to your door asking for funds, be cautious, and ask plenty of questions. Don’t hesitate to contact the organization directly to see if they have people working in your area. Ask the person for ID, a mission statement, and a tax-deductible receipt. If they cannot provide some or any of these, close the door. And if you do give to charity, avoid paying with cash; use a credit card or cheque.