Toronto Star ePaper

Tips to not fall victim to charity fraud

There are some steps you can take before you donate to ensure that a cause is real

DEAN LISK SPECIAL TO THE STAR This content was funded but not approved by the advertisers.

When it comes to charity frauds, one important thing to remember, said Jeff Horncastle, is that no real charity will pressure you to give right away.

“A charity will never push you to donate with urgency, they will always give you time to look into the organization,” said Horncastle, a communications outreach officer with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

He said there are a several ways scammers can pose as a fake charity or impersonate an authentic one, which is why the centre includes these types of scams in its holiday-related awareness campaign.

“They will mimic a real charity, claim to be it and contact people by phone or email, or through ads on social media or through search engine optimization,” he said. “When people go online to look up a certain charitable organization, there is a good chance the first five or 10 results could be fraudulent. So, you want to make sure you are going to the right website.”

He said the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s website provides some tips to help Canadians know what to do so they do not fall victim to charity scams and having their money or personal details stolen.

If you are contacted by phone, don’t feel intimidated by any high-pressure tactics.

Instead, Horncastle said you should ask them to send you written information, including the charity’s contact details, its mission, how it will use your donation, proof that your contribution is tax deductible and its registered charitable tax number — which you can then confirm with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

“With caller spoofing they can make any name show up in your call display,” he said. “Seem like an idiot and let them know you will call them back, and look up the official phone number for that organization and make that phone call so you know you are contacting the real phone number.”

He said another red flag is if you are asked to donate using cryptocurrency. From the centre’s understanding, he said, registered charities do not accept it as a payment method.

If you are contacted by email, Horncastle said to really take a close at it. At first glance, the charity name, email address or website might look authentic, but the spelling may by slightly different.

“We always advise you do not click on links until you can verify it. and, even if it does look legitimate — as we have seen with some of these CRA phishing emails, they can look legitimate — always go a step further and reach out directly to the organization from their official contact information or website and confirm it with them.”

He said another common fraud takes place when scammers post obituaries asking friends and families to donate to a charity in memory of the deceased or to go to a crowdfunding site to support the family. What happens is the link either takes you to a fraudulent site where your money and personal details can be stolen, or, in the case of crowdfunding, it is actually the scammers accessing the money.

If you believe you are a victim of charity fraud, Horncastle said you should report it to your local police station and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, which shares information of mass marketing fraud with its public and private partners and law enforcement agencies across the country and around the world. He also said you should also contact your financial institution and report it to the CRA.

Horncastle’s biggest advice? “Always double check everything,” he said.





Toronto Star Newspapers Limited