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Senior warns of phone scam

Request for school safety funds raises suspicion

Pauline Bradley, 83, had heard it all before, so when the woman on the phone requested a donation for a police association program, she wasn’t surprised. The first time Bradley heard the story she found out it was a scam.

Bradley answered the phone in December, just days after the shooting at Sandy Hill Elementary School which killed 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut.

“I let her verbal on and what it boiled down to was a safety program for kids in schools,” said Bradley, a retired teacher and counsellor from Gordon Park Elementary School. “It was going to be for the students, their parents and the general public. She said that if I would be willing to pay $150 it could save the lives of four children.”

Bradley said she thought the claim was “hogwash and without any logic behind it.”

When Bradley didn’t jump at the chance to make a donation, the caller said that she could also donate a little less if that were easier.

When Bradley requested written information about the charity program, the caller told her that she had just told her all about the charity. When Bradley persisted on further information, she was told to look it up on the computer.

“But I don’t have a computer,” she said. “Then she hung up on me.

Bradley said that it bothers her because Powell River is a town of quite generous people and this is the sort of thing that would really get old people.

She called Powell River RCMP to report the phone call and the police confirmed that they don’t solicit donations for school safety programs.

“The RCMP doesn’t have any charities attached to it,” said Constable Chris Bakker of the Powell River detachment. He advised that if anyone receives such a call, to contact the RCMP at 604.485.6255 and Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1.888.495.8501.

The end of the year is the peak season for bogus charity appeals and it is common practice for scammers to use a name that is very close to the name of an actual legitimate charity.

Some warning signs of a possible fraud include: high-pressure telemarketers who want contributions immediately; the caller thanks the recipient for a pledge the recipient doesn’t recall making; copycat names are used which might be misleading or deceiving.

When receiving a suspicious phone call, the anti-fraud centre suggests the following:

  • Ask how much of the gift will be used directly for the charity and how much will go toward administrative costs. Legitimate charities have no problem providing this information.
  • The caller could be misrepresenting a legitimate charity.
  • Never give out personal or financial information over the phone or at the door.
  • Suggest donating by cheque payable to the charity and obtain the mailing address and phone number from the caller.
  • Ask if the charity is registered.
  • Call the charity. Find out if it knows about the appeal and has authorized it and what percentage of the donation it will receive. Perhaps there is a better way to give, where 100 per cent of the donation will reach the charity.
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