Albertans are known for their generosity, often leading the country in annual per-person donations to charity.
Unfortunately, that reputation for kindness attracts predators looking to make a quick buck in the form of scams involving bogus charities.
Fundraising campaigns are often launched on short notice in the wake of a natural disaster, or other tragic circumstance at home or abroad. Most are organized by legitimate charities.
Anyone concerned about a fundraising event or campaign can contact Service Alberta to see if the charitable organization is registered.
As part of its campaign to mark Fraud Prevention Month, Service Alberta is urging consumers to protect themselves by learning how to spot a bogus charity before they become victims:
- Ask questions before you donate, including how your money will be spent. Organizations that raise more than $25,000 must prepare and provide a financial statement on request.
- If the funds go to a specific charity, call that charity or group to ensure they are aware of the fundraising efforts.
- Beware of high-pressure tactics. A legitimate charity will still be there tomorrow. Feel free to take the information and sleep on it.
- Ask for a receipt for a monetary donation.
Charity fraud varies from outright scams to a misrepresentation of how much of a donation actually goes to help the designated charity.
Minor breaches of provincial law by well-meaning groups will result in the provincial government contacting the organizers regarding the rules for fundraising set out in Alberta’s Charitable Fund-raising Act.
However, Service Alberta will launch an investigation in the case of criminals trying to take advantage of Albertans. Violations of the Charitable Fund-raising Act can result in charges warranting jail terms or fines up to $100,000.
This month marks the 11th anniversary of the innovative Fraud Prevention Month partnership across Canada. Service Alberta works with law enforcement, other levels of government and business groups to help Albertans:
- recognize fraud in its various forms;
- learn how and where to report it; and
- stop a con artist or scammer from cheating someone out of their hard-earned money.
More information on how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud can be found by calling the Consumer Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-427-4088 or on the Consumer Protection Facebook page.