False Charities

In Canada we have a long and honourable tradition of voluntary giving to those in need, often through charity organizations.

But if an unfamiliar charity organization contacts you - by mail, phone, or Internet - be careful.

Bogus charities often use names that are very close to the names of legitimate and respected charities. The end of the year is the peak season for charity appeals. It also is the peak season for the bogus charity appeals.

Warning signs

  • High pressure or threatening telemarketers who want you to contribute immediately>
  • Someone calls and thanks you for a pledge you don't remember making.
  • Copycat names. Names that might be misleading or deceiving.

What you can do

  • If you receive a telephone call, ask for the information to be sent to you in writing. Ask how much of your gift will be used directly for the charity. Ask how much will go toward administrative costs. Legitimate charities have no problem giving you this information.
  • Remember on an incoming call a person could be misrepresenting a legitimate charity.
  • Never give out your  personal / financial information out over the phone, or at the door. You may wish to make out a cheque payable to the charity. You can mail the cheque later.
  • Call the charity. Find out if they know about the appeal and have authorized it and what percentage of your donation they will receive from your donation. Perhaps there is a better way to give, where 100% of your donation will reach the charity.
  • Ask if the charity is registered. Contact Revenue Canada at 1-800-267-2384 or click here to search online.
  • Ask them to give you the charitable tax number of the charity. Question any discrepancies.
  • At the beginning of each year decide which charities you can afford to donate to - send your checks directly to their head office, and feel good about giving. When approached you can say that you have already given and leave it at that. Perhaps you will consider their appeal next year when you decide on the charities you can afford to give to.
  • To file a complaint call your local police and The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.