Charity scams

The scam

The scammer tries to convince you to give money to a fake charity, or to a real charity but they keep whatever donations they receive.


Health, environment, arts, anti-poverty, international aid -

there are literally hundreds of thousands of worthwhile causes out there.

And it’s our natural instinct to help out by giving.

But in the slippery world of charity scams, crooks prey on your generosity

and your desire to help, pouncing on what they think is your “weak spot”.

They will ask you to give to non-existent charities, or they will go to great lengths

to imitate legitimate ones. They are especially devious in times of trouble,

asking you to give to the latest earthquake or flood or other disaster,

through charities that seem for real, but aren’t.

Here’s what to watch for: High-pressure phone tactics,

door-to-door canvassers who are pushy, and who can’t prove they’re with a CRA-registered

charity, and unsolicited emails.

Watch out also for call centres who want your personal information –

your address, and most especially your banking information or a credit card number. Don’t

give them anything!! Here’s the bottom line.

Only YOU should be in control of your giving. That means YOU choose who gets your money,

how much, and when. If you have the slightest suspicion, check

the Canada Revenue Agency’s list of REGISTERED Canadian charities…

… and remember that you –that’s right, YOU – have the right to say NO.

A message from the Competition Bureau of Canada… and the Little Black Book of Scams.

Video length: 1 minute, 47 seconds

How it works

Charity scams take advantage of people’s generosity and kindness. The scammer may contact you by telephone or by knocking on your door, speaking to you on the street, or emailing you. They may have counterfeit letters or other materials, fake collection boxes, or a fake website, all of which look realistic. Often, the scammer will play on your emotions. For example, they might pretend to be helping victims of a recent natural disaster or claim they are from a charity that helps animals or sick children.

Not only do these scams cost people money, they also divert donations away from real charities.

How to spot it

Scammers may try to make you feel guilty or pressure you to donate. They may refuse to provide details, such as the charity’s address or tax registration number. They may be unable to answer questions about how the money will be used. In other cases, they may simply provide false information.

Protect yourself

  • If you do not want to donate any money, simply ignore the email or letter, hang up the phone, or say no to the person at your door.
  • If you want to give money, research the charity to ensure it is legitimate. For example, the Canada Revenue Agency has a searchable online database of all registered charities operating in Canada.
  • You can also contact your local Better Business Bureau to see if they have any information about the charity you are interested in.
  • Never give out personal information such as credit card or bank account numbers over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number belongs to a trusted source.
  • If you want to make a donation but have doubts about the person asking for money, approach the organization directly.
  • If you choose to donate, do not give cash. Write a cheque payable to the name of the charity or use a credit card so you have a record of the donation. Request a receipt and make sure it has the charity’s contact details on it.

Further reading