Year after year we have charitable organizations vying for our attention and support. Whether it’s through the phone, mail, or online, you’ll want to make your donation count. Unfortunately, there are those out there that take advantage of our generosity by posing as a fake charity, especially during the holiday season.
Known as charity fraud, fraudsters will pose as a charitable organization to solicit funds from the public for philanthropic goals (aiding families, curing diseases, religious cause, and so on) in a deceptive manner. The deception is that the funds aren’t going to be used as suggested and your personal information is being collected.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, here is how to protect yourself from a fake charity appeal:
It isn’t rude to say no.
We’ve all been taught to mind our Ps and Qs at one point or another, but that doesn’t mean you should succumb to a high-pressure sales pitch. At the end of the day, it’s your time, money, and personal information you’re protecting. Hanging up, asking questions, or exiting a pop-up isn’t rude and it most certainly doesn’t make you a Scrooge.
As a business, big or small, you will be asked more than anyone to make charitable donations. Sponsoring organizations important to you isn’t a bad thing as long as you know all there is to know about who you are supporting. Make note of any anomalies, like your regular contact isn’t reaching out or sudden “extra fees”.
What’s personal, should remain personal.
It may not feel like it, but your name, address, and birthdate are just as important as your social insurance number and other banking information. If you wouldn’t freely give out your credit card number, for example, why give out your mailing address? When unsolicited callers are asking for personal information, beware! These callers could be identity thieves looking to gather information to use for their own gain.
If you are a business owner, be sure you are having this discussion with your employees. No matter their employment level, everyone on your team should be keeping business, employee, and customer information private.
Do your research.
There are many online resources out there that can help you determine the legitimacy of a charity. However, be sure the site you are on is also legitimate. Remember, the internet, while a useful tool, can be a danger, too. Visiting sites like the Government for Canada or the Canada Revenue Agency, for instance, will be a good foundation to begin your research. From there, you should be able to find what you are looking for.
If you’re still not sure, give the charity a call. A legitimate charity will be passionate about their cause and will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Here are some questions you can ask:
- Ask where your money is going
- Request information in writing
- Make an informal information request
- Make a formal information request
Note: If you or someone you know believes that they are or have been a victim of identity theft or fraud, contact your local police force, contact your bank or financial institution, place a fraud alert on your credit report, and contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.