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RCMP warn residents to be wary of charity scams

By: Amy Crofts

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 04, 2013 06:00 am

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In the weeks leading up to Christmas, people are filled with the spirit of giving.

Whether it is putting cash into the collection box at a place of worship, donating clothes to a local homeless shelter, or writing a cheque to help victims of a natural disaster, givers should know into whose hands their money is going into.

St. Albert RCMP note there have been no door-to-door charity scams reported this season, but are asking residents to still be vigilant and ask questions.

“If it feels wrong or suspicious, it probably is,” said Const. M-J Burroughs with St. Albert RCMP.

She noted the last report of a door-to-door charity scam was in February, when a man said he was representing a peewee girls hockey club. RCMP have also encountered calls regarding men selling clothing items and/or electronics out of their vehicle.

“If anyone is approached by an individual selling products out of a vehicle or their home, chances are the merchandise is stolen and/or a knock-off brand name, which is illegal to sell,” said Burroughs.

She explained legitimate charities should be able to produce identification if they are canvassing for donations and the individuals canvassing should be wearing identification.

“People selling things not for charity need a business license from the city to sell door-to-door, which they should be able to produce or someone in bylaw enforcement can check to see if the company is legit,” said Burroughs.

To make sure your donations benefit the people and organizations you want to assist, RCMP ask the public to take the following precautions:

• Be wary of appeals that tug at your heart strings, especially pleas involving current events.

• Ask for written information about the charity, including name, address and telephone number. A legitimate charity or fund-raiser will give you information about the charity's mission, how your donation will be used and proof that your contribution is tax deductible.

• Ask the solicitor for the registered charitable tax number of the charity. Confirm the charity’s registration information through the Canada Revenue Agency (1-800-267-2384).

• Check out the charity's financial information. For many organizations, this information can be found online.

• Ask for identification. If the solicitor refuses to tell you or does not have some form of verifiable identification, hang up or close the door and report it to law enforcement officials.

• Call the charity. Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. If not, you may be dealing with a scam artist.

• Watch out for similar sounding names. Some phony charities use names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations. If you notice a small difference from the name of the charity you intend to deal with, call the organization to check it out.

• Be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge you don't remember making. If you have any doubts about whether you've made a pledge or previously contributed, check your records. Be on the alert for invoices claiming you've made a pledge. Some unscrupulous solicitors use this approach to get your money.

• Refuse high pressure appeals. Legitimate fund-raisers won't push you to give on the spot.

• Be wary of charities offering to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect your donation immediately.

• Avoid cash gifts. Cash can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it's best to pay by cheque.

• To file a police complaint, contact your local police force. To ensure that your complaint information is shared with other law enforcement agencies, also file a report with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by calling 1-888-495-8501.


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