Tis the Season for…CHARITY SCAMS

Posted by on Nov 27, 2016 in A frugal Life, Frugal For Everyone | 53 comments

Charity scamsBefore retiring I managed a local branch of an international Charity. This of course means I know very well how legitimate charities operate. On the flip side it also means I’m very aware of charity scams.

To many people donating so others can also enjoy a good Christmas is simply part of the Christmas season. Scammers take full advantage of this generosity by pretending to be collecting for Charities at Christmas, often successfully. Think twice before giving . Very few Charities have the resources to go door-to-door or make telephone calls. If approached this way there is a strong possibility it’s a scam.

Let’s stop supporting their fraudulent activities. Knowing how to identify legitimate Charities and having a fail-proof way to make donations will go a long way to ensuring your donated funds go where you want them to.

Scammers often target the elderly, which I find particularly disturbing. If you know an elderly person, especially someone who lives on their own and who could be taken in, please discuss this with them.


Charity Scams Popular Causes:

Charity scams often use the following causes simply because we find it hard to say no to causes that benefit:

  • Families at Christmas
  • Children
  • Veterans
  • The homeless
  • Animals
  • Current catastrophes like earthquakes, health epidemics, refugees etc.


charity scams

The simplest way to make sure you do not get caught by scammers is to check out the Charity:

  • Get the name of the Charity along with the charitable registration number – if this can’t be provided there should never be a donation;
  • Obtain address and phone number from the Charity’s website. If you have any questions, call the Charity and ask. Legitimate charities know all about donor concerns and will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

NEVER use a number provided by the solicitor but always check the Charity’s website for mailing address and phone number.

 Things to watch for:

  • Being asked for the donation in cash. Legitimate charities actually prefer cheques or online donations because both leave a paper trail which is important.
  • Being thanked for making a pledge you don’t remember making and being presented with a bill for the so-called pledged amount. Don’t pay it!!  Instead take the bill to the nearest police station and let them deal with it.
  • Scammers may use names that are similar to legitimate Charities. If something doesn’t sound or feel right, place a direct call to the Charity to ask if they are soliciting in your neighbourhood.

Fail-proof way to make donations:

  • Mail your cheque directly to the Charity along with a cover letter; If the Charity has a local branch you wish to support, mail the check directly to the branch, again with a cover letter;
  • OR go to the Charity’s Website to make an online donation.


Click on the links below to find out more about the legitimacy and accountability of any Charity:

Or google the Name and Address of the Charity adding the word ‘scams’, ‘fraud’ or ‘complaints and see what comes up.


Saying NO during this season really doesn’t hurt legitimate charities, after all they need funds all year round. Your donation will be just as welcome in February as in December. The exception of course would be Christmas requests, such as the Salvation Army Christmas Fund or the Emergency Services Toy/Food Drives.


No doubt there will always be scammers looking for an easy dollar. However, by being alert to common charity scams you can go a long way to prevent those dollars from being yours.


Talk to you again next week,


If you liked this post, others will too. Please share.

Scam Alert: Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Charity: Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



















  1. I think there is nothing more disgusting than trying to take advantage of someone by saying you are a charity.
    I hope that everyone follows your recommendations. Once they found out they could not make money off good people they would move onto something else, and then these scams would dry up and go away.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

    • William, the big danger of scammers is that they jeopardize the good work done by the legitimate charities. If people would take the time to learn about the charities they support and how to safely donate the scammers would be out of business very soon, as you say. We just need to keep reminding them.

  2. Going through your post Lenie I recalled a last year’s incident, when during the Christmas eve I had stepped out with my family we had a group with few papers asking for donations and when offered with cheque the said to offer cash as processing takes time and we ended paying in cash for the charity now I wonder we must have verified them first!

    • Sushmita, it does sound like you may have been a victim of fraud. No charity that I know of would insist on cash, cheques would be preferred. One way you can know for sure – where you given a charitable tax receipt with the charity’s registration number clearly stated? If you didn’t that pretty well confirms that there was no Charity.

  3. Living in Canada, I can say that people here are generally big-hearted, wanitng to give to good causes. (Likely the same other places too.) Even Jesus counselled us to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” It takes discernment and good counsel not to be taken in by thieves! Thanks again, Lenie, for your valuable counsel.

    • Hi Ramona, we tend to think that scamming is a current problem but you are so right – it obviously dates back to biblical times. Unfortunate, isn’t it because this kind of behaviour can have a serious impact on the many legitimate Charities that do marvelous works. Society would suffer if they didn’t exist. thanks for your comment.

  4. Fantastic post, Lenie. Thx very much for sharing your insights on the world of charitable donations. Here’s my pet peeve when it comes to making donations. They never know when to quit! I gave a small donation to a local museum when they were trying to get enough funding to get established. But they haven’t stopped asking me to donate again and I find that really irritable as I have every limited resources, and had only given that one-time donation because I wanted them to succeed. Now, three years later, if they can’t make it on their own, it’s too bad. But no more is coming from me.

    • Doreen, I hear you and this happens to be a frequent pet peeve. I personally think the best way for charities to ask for donations is to give people a reason to donate. Contribute your charity’s expertise to educate children, go to a retirement home and just talk about what your charity does for the community, send out press releases outlining a specific way you helped an individual or group, etc. It takes work but you don’t annoy people and you actually get to meet some fabulous ones. My favourite all time person that I met was Lincoln Alexander – what an honour.

  5. The last year or so an abundance of charity scammers in Europe have focused on making people give to refugees one way or another. And many people fall for it. Checking out the charity before donating is, as you point out, essential even if it’s just about donating your old clothes. Scammer sell the clothes to countries in the developing world and make a profit out of people’s generosity.

    • Catarina, the need of the refugees is exactly the kind of thing scammers target and that is just so disgraceful. Governments around the world need to do more to raise awareness around the charity scam problem. The legitimate charitable contribution just by Canadians and Americans is worth close to 400 Billion dollars. Something for governments to think about.

  6. You first posted this two years ago – how time flies!

    Fraud is increasing by the day and it really does make you cautious.

    The elderly are seen as an easy target, especially at this time of year. They need to be reminded they are not obligated to open their door. If the caller is genuine they will drop a card or leaflet through the letter box. If the elderly person feels obligated to open the door they should never let on when they are home alone.

    • Phoenicia, this is a problem that will never go away. there are always people looking to make an ‘easy’ dollar. The smartest thing is to know the Charity you want to contribute to, check it out and pay with mailed cheque or online – never with cash or in person. We need to keep reminding people of this.

  7. Very important post!

    I feel disturbed when I see these activities around me! Due to these Scammers a lot of people have lost faith in genuine organizations.

    I have also seen some orphanages, who in spite of getting huge donations take no or little care of the kids. These crooks should be dragged to jail.

    Thanks for writing this

    • Tuhin, you are right that more people are starting to question donating to any charity but it can be safely done. Society would suffer tremendously is Charities couldn’t carry on for lack of funding.

      I haven’t experienced the orphanage situation but we see the same problem to some extent within the Child Protection Services. Not enough oversight can lead to tremendous abuse.

      I guess we just need to keep raising awareness so people know how to check out legitimate charities and how to safely donate.

  8. It’s always a good idea to remember charity scams this time of year. Sad but true.

  9. It is a sad thing that we have to watch out for scammers at this time of year especially but your post is a good reminder that these folks exist and your advice is well heeded. Thanks Lenie.

  10. I love it when you bring up topics like these, which never get discussed enough!

  11. A good reminder Lenie. It’s so unfair that some people take advantage of this time of the year so we must be on the look- out for these scams.

  12. This is good advice during this coming time. People have become more cunning than ever and this makes some legitimate charities miss out on much needed help.

  13. Hi
    This is Good information Lenie. I’d hate to see people who were willing to give to charity and to help others stop because of being scammed. One doesn’t like to feel distrustful when in a giving mood, but taking a few simple steps can make sure donations go to legitimate places. helpfull Really Great Work i like it ,


  14. Wonderful post. Yes scammers are on the rampage his time of the year. This information would be a guard against such scams. Thanks for sharing an awesome post

  15. Great post. It sucks that people try to scam folks out of money anytime. Its even worse when its during the holiday season.

  16. Very good information. I am always leary of giving money to the people who are outside of the grocery stores or on the corners with Santa suits on. I always find out what charity they are collecting for and ask them how I can give online. if they do not have an answer then I know it is a scam

  17. Thanks for sharing this advice Lenie. It’s so horrible that scammers use charities to trick people, especially as people who fall for their tricks are trying to do something kind.

  18. Oh, some very good tips, Lenie! We’re so full of generosity and so busy at this time of year that often we don’t think to ask important questions. It’s truly awful how some target senior women! My late mother was convinced that every solicitation she received in the mail was personally and specifically directed to her. Even though I tried explaining to her that someone like me had written that letter to a general market, she was very difficult to dissuade!

  19. Great advice Lenie! I normally select one charity or cause to support a year and that way I can feel like I’m making a difference with my donations. Typically I choose one I’m already familiar with, but whenever I want to look into a charity I head first to sites like Charity Navigator to find out as much background as I can and see what kind of a rating they have.

  20. Thanks for this information on scam alert especially this time of the year. Hope everyone will yield the warnings.

  21. This demonstrates the dichotomy of the human race. Good people who try to help others through a chartable cause, and those who would try to cheat other through a cause.

  22. Hello Lenie

    This is good time to remind many about charity scam.
    At such times many people try to take benefit of the situation. A lot of people are there in world who are ready to help but are caught by such scams . I hope people will be careful and make sure that their money reach the deserving.
    All the suggestions to avoid any such situation are spot on.
    I like when you right that charity organizations need help throughout the year. They do not come out only during holiday.
    I hope God will save us from such people who take the right of deserving by deceiving others.
    All the best to all.

  23. Lenie — good advice. I particularly resent the solicitations that send you a receipt when you haven’t even given yet. It looks like it’s an invoice for something you’ve ordered. I tend to give to a number of charities at year end. It reminds me that I am so blessed but there are many people who aren’t as fortunate as I am.

  24. Other than the occasional high school student raising money or selling candy bars, etc. I’ve never given to anyone who comes knocking on my door. Your post made me think a bit more about how forthcoming or not some solicitors have been when knocking on my door. I tend to give to the same few charities over and over because I am comfortable giving to them and know their business practices. It seems like there’s always knocks on our door and flyers being hung from the doorknobs at least 3-5 times a week. I’m actually thinking of getting a “No Solicitation” sticker.

  25. Great tips here, Lenie. I think it’s so disturbing that scammers use charities to rip people off. And I hate that it makes it harder to want to give to good charities, when it’s hard to tell the difference. My approach is to not give to anyone soliciting anything. There are plenty of good charities that I know of to give to, that I don’t need to be taken in by someone at my door. I’d rather know where my money is going. Thanks for these reminders.

  26. It is a regretable human being who preys on people by posing as a representative of a charity that benefit children or the homeless or catastrophe survivors.I hate to treat people with suspicion but scammers like these leave you little choice.

  27. Jacquie – any legitimate charity appreciates funds anytime and funds received ‘just because’ are almost the best kind. I used to love those unexpected ones. Thanks for taking the time to remind the elderly.

  28. HI Lenie – It is a shame that these scammers really seem to come out around the holidays when people need the charity the most. People become afraid to give at all out of fear of being scammed, so I’m sure your post will help alleviate some of those fears. What is really sad is that they try to come across as legitimate charities that really need the money or that they scam the elder who can seldom afford it.

  29. My friend is constantly bombarded with telephone solicitations and says the same thing – I wonder how many of those calls are legit because the charities I used to work with all had overworked staff and volunteers who really wouldn’t have the time to make telephone calls.

  30. Agree with you completely, Lenie. These charity scams are a nuisance. And above all that they target old people. Have noticed that a lot of them are targetting gullible people online as well. Seems a lot of Americans are falling for the scams and donate money for say, orphans in Syria.

    • Hi Catarina – It’s really hard to get away from scammers and I know I would never donate without checking the charity. Your right, they donate to orphans in Syria, monkeys in other places, the homeless is a biggie right now, especially with winter coming on. I do want to make people aware that not every request is an honest one.

  31. Sad but true. We need to be mindful of scammers. You may have saved me or someone else from victimization with this article! Thank you!

    • Thanks Angela, I really hope I can deprive the scammer from at least one victim, hopefully more. If people stop being vulnerable to sob stories we may be able to put the scammers out of business – wouldn’t that be something?

  32. The elderly are so vulnerable at this time of year. It is our duty to ensure our elderly neighbours, friends and family are aware of these scams.

    We should also advise them not to keep large amounts of money in their home.

    • I like the idea of friends and family telling the elderly not to keep large amounts of money in their home. That automatically makes them a target for the unscrupulous. Thanks for the suggestion.

  33. This is a timely message, and thanks for the information. People do want to help the less fortunate without taking part in a scam. Saying no is a good reminder, especially when many would only do it when charity is financially unaffordable.

    • Good point Deidre. Wouldn’t you hate to see someone donate to a scammer when they really couldn’t afford to donate at all. Donating is good but not if it means financial hardship to yourself or your family.

  34. Hi Lenie, what valuable information. Door to door collections for charities in Ireland is quite common and I’m not sure all of them are legitimate…thanks for explaining how to identify a scammer! Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Hi Noelle, door to door collections aren’t very common here and that is a good thing. It’s really difficult for any charity to monitor that kind of activity effectively – much better to choose a charity you know is legit and mail in your donation.

  35. This is just so sad, people pretending to be from a charitable organisation and soliciting money. It’s easy to be fooled and, yes, the legitimate charities would of course miss out

  36. Good reminders, Lenie! I choose to donate my time to the local soup kitchen. That way I know what I am doing is going to the right people. Every year I go between Thanksgiving and New Years and even though they stick me in the kitchen chopping onions, I feel good about it. Happy Turkey Day.

    • Hi Laurie – a gift of time is often just as valuable as money, especially in places like soup kitchens where they are always shorthanded. I think donating time to a children’s ward in the hospital would also be immensely satisfying. (I ate the turkey in October)

  37. Thanks for the advice! This is true around this time of year. There are scams out there and unfortunately will take advantage of the Christmas spirit. This is something to remember when giving this time of year. =)

    • Hi Crystal – it does make you mad when the scammers are out. Here in Canada we have a book called The Little Black Book of SCams (this was borrowed from Australia). Pretty sad when such a publication is necessary.

  38. Good information Lenie. I’d hate to see people who were willing to give to charity and to help others stop because of being scammed. One doesn’t like to feel distrustful when in a giving mood, but taking a few simple steps can make sure donations go to legitimate places.

    • My favourite way to foil the scammers is to pick a couple of charities, do some research as to what programs the donations fund and then mail in the check. If everyone did that, we wouldn’t have to worry about scammers.

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