Into the Season of Giving

November 01, 2016

Halloween is once again but a spectre in our memory and now, if they haven’t already, stores will start dressing windows with Christmas and holiday themes. It’s a time of year when generosity takes over and we open our hearts and wallets for those less fortunate than ourselves. It’s also a time to be very careful about who we give money and belongings to and how.

Scammers know full well that we are more giving at this time of year, particularly when places like Syria continue to make the headlines. It seems whenever tragedy strikes, fraudsters are there to capitalize on our generous nature with fake websites, fake crowdfunding sites, or simply going door to door to peddle as a fake Red Cross representative. Even when we want to do good, we must keep our guard up.

Most Better Business Bureau in Canada do not track charities as our counterparts in the United States do. The BBB in London Ontario does, and they can be a resource for information on charities in Canada. Their link can be found here. In the US, BBB has what’s called the Wise Giving Alliance (WGA). The BBB Wise Giving Alliance helps donors make informed giving decisions and promotes high standards of conduct among organizations that solicit contributions from the public. BBB WGA does not rank charities but rather seeks to assist donors in making informed judgments about those that solicit their support. We also direct consumers to The Canada Revenue Agency’s database of charities registered in Canada. You can find that link here.

That said, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure you are giving your money to legit organizations and that it’s going to those who need it.


  1. Right off the top, give to a registered charity. As mentioned those can be found on the CRA website. If you have given to a specific charity in the past, perhaps it’s a good idea to stick with what you know. Registered charities will be able to provide a tax receipt once you give money. They can send you this through email, or even provide one at the door. However, not every charity is tax exempt. Do your research and find out their tax status through the CRA. If they are not registered, you may not be able to claim it.
  2. If something bad happens, resist the urge to give right away. Do your research on an organization. Be wary of giving to crowdfunding platforms and try to find out how is behind and why. Go Fund Me pages are very popular right now and are an easy way to illicit emotion, but they are not registered charities. We have seen numerous fake sites set up when emotions are running high.
  3. Resist high-pressure tactics from door-to-door solicitation or telemarketers. We have seen fake Red Cross reps peddling for cash, and while the Red Cross does canvas on the street from time to time, check with them or other organizations to confirm they are operating in your area. We have heard of local police stations being used fraudulently to raise money for certain causes. Contact the authority directly to see if they are involved, typically...they’re not.
  4. Ask a lot of questions. How much of the money is actually going to those affected, and how much is used to run the charity as an organization? Many organizations claim 100% of your money is going to on-the-ground efforts however that may not be the case. If you are being solicited door-to-door, ask about the vision and mission. Ask to see identification and registration number. Make sure you can get a receipt on the spot.
  5. Maybe you would like to donate articles of clothing instead of money. Thrift stores aren’t all run to benefit a charitable cause. While the name of the store may identify the charitable affiliation, charity-sounding names have been used by for-profit stores with no connection to charity. If in doubt, ask the store to identify the charity it’s affiliated with and then contact the charity to verify the arrangements.


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