Better Business Bureau serving Central Virginia is issuing an alert about a scam artist alleging to be a philanthropist in London, England. Eighteen Richmond-area charitable organizations have reported to BBB being emailed by “Ken McFarlane” or “Kenneth McFarlane”, with offers of 5-figure donations.Three local charities received and deposited $39,850 checks. They were each contacted by “McFarlane” immediately claiming that a mistake had been made and asking them to return $10,000 as soon as possible. The checks turned out to be worthless.Had these charities followed through with the request, they would have lost a significant amount of money. Charities have reported complications from the scam, including bank fees associated with depositing the fraudulent check. BBB urges any charity that receives these emails not to respond or engage in any way.“This is really an old twist on an old scam. We’ve seen this same kind of scam for years, just not lately. It’s sickening that charities which serve youth, veterans, and those needing health care in our community are being targeted,” said Tom Gallagher, president & CEO of BBB serving Central Virginia.The name & contact info in emails received by local charities mirrors an architectural firm in the UK. The scam artists have copied the UK firm’s website in an attempt to legitimize themselves.BBB urges charities to use extreme caution if they are contacted in any way by “Ken McFarlane” or other unknown parties. If you receive this check, do not deposit it. Even more, it’s extremely unlikely that a huge donation will appear out of thin air.BBB warns charities to look for these red flags:Large, unexpected donations from a new or unknown donor should be investigated before the money is deposited.Information from a will or estate that donates regularly could be lifted by scammers. Check with the source of the scheduled contributions and confirm the data you receive is still accurate.Be wary of donors requesting an immediate payment or refund of a contribution without giving any details as to why. Request more information about their need for a refund and have them either issue a new check or cancel the check they've already issued.Before signing up to receive donations through a website or third-party vendor, read the fine print and understand all aspects of the agreement.If your nonprofit or charity is contacted by this individual or is the victim of this scam, contact local law enforcement and report the activity to BBB's ScamTracker.