Many of us are filled with a desire to help others during the holiday season. Whether it’s volunteering at a soup kitchen or donating money to a cause, this time of year is thought of as a time for giving.
Unfortunately, fraudulent charities often emerge to try to scam donations from well-meaning Canadians. To avoid scams or having your dollars misdirected, donors would do well to plan their giving and demand accountability of the organizations soliciting their support.
If you plan to donate money, whether it’s for those in need during the holiday season or for another cause close to your heart, BBB would like to offer the following advice:
Think before you give. Door-to-door solicitations for donations are common, but when an unfamiliar organization comes knocking, don’t give without gathering details. Ask for the charity’s name and address, get full identification from the solicitor and review it carefully. Ask to see written information on the charity’s programs and finances; then visit the Canadian Revenue Agency for a list of registered charities in Canada to confirm they’re legitimate.
Giving later might be better. Never feel pressured to give on the spot. Legitimate charities will welcome your money tomorrow. If the solicitor pressures you with intimidation or harassing phone calls, don’t hesitate to file a complaint with BBB.
Be cautious when giving online. Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to messages and emails that claim to link to a charitable organization, in particular with those linked to disaster relief. In the days following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, several phoney charitable websites popped up alleging to help victims.
Check out a charity’s claims. Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fundraising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If charities claim 100 per cent of collected funds will be assisting, for instance, earthquake victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fundraising and administrative expenses. They may use some of their other funds to pay this, but the expenses will still be incurred.
Watch out for cases of mistaken identity. With about 9,000 registered charities in B.C. alone, it’s not surprising that some charity names sound alike. Be careful that the one soliciting you is the one you have in mind.
Watch out for charity fraud. Legitimate charities do not demand donations; they willingly provide written information about their programs, finances or how donations are used; and they never insist you provide your credit card number, bank account number or any other personal information.