Charity Scams: If they’re sending you a check, something is probably not right.

December 1, 2009

Several months ago, I posted an article about the practice of some charities sending people checks in hopes of getting a donation in return.

A REGIONAL member had come to the office, having received a letter and check for $2.50 from the National Cancer Research Center. They instructed the recipient to cash the check if they wanted to, but to consider sending them $10 instead, for their annual fund drive.

At the time, I wasn’t sure what the deal was, but I did suggest erring on the side of caution and not cashing the check at all. Details about the National Cancer Research Center were pretty sketchy, and it just seemed like a weird chance to take if you’re trying to raise money. What if every person you sent the check to cashed it?

Talk about your instincts being right.

Since then, I’ve heard of some other alleged “charities” sending people checks for small amounts of money, using a similar pitch. What I didn’t consider at the time was this: when you cash one of these checks, the people who sent it can get a copy of it when it hits their bank. That puts your account number and routing number into their hands. At that point, they can drain your account at will.

So I’m going to slightly modify what I said months ago: if a charity sends you a check for a small amount of money, do not cash it and do not donate money. You are, in all likelihood, looking at a scam.

You can, however, file a complaint with the Postal Inspector, if you’re a proactive type of person.


Curiouser and curiouser

July 13, 2009

Last Friday, a REGIONAL member brought in a check for $2.50. It was supposedly part of a fundraising drive for the National Cancer Research Center.

The letter basically said (my summary), “Here is a check for $2.50. You can cash it if you want, but what I hope you will do is send us a check for $10 for our annual fund drive.”

The REGIONAL MSR felt there was just something weird about this setup; they’re trying to raise funds, so they’re sending people checks? Is this a legitimate charity, or are they up to something?

The member didn’t end up cashing the check. I agreed with this decision and had the MSR make copies of the letter and check for my files. I felt like the jury was still out, though. It could have been real. It just wasn’t worth the risk to the member.

However, this weekend our CEO stumbled upon this, an article on someone’s personal finance blog. It’s the exact same setup, only this time (supposedly) for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

This makes me think these letters and checks are part some sort of scheme. However, the actual text of the letters is a little different. Most crooks reuse the same text over and over. Is this some incredibly elaborate rig designed to bilk the public out of millions of dollars, ten bones at a time? Or are they up to something even more sinister?

I’d love to get an official answer on this one; is this the new trend in fundraising, sending people a check for $2.50 and hoping they send you $10 instead? It seems like a risky venture in a down economy—if you send out a million of these letters, you run a very real risk of losing $2.5 million instead of making $10 million.

Online information about the National Cancer Research Center is very sketchy, but M.A.D.D. is a well-known organization. Does anybody out there know for sure?

I may have to dig deeper into this. If you’ve received a similar letter/check combination, or can provide some sort of insight, let me know in the comments.

At any rate, I’d say this: don’t cash that check, and don’t send any money. It’s not worth $2.50. If it is a legitimate fundraiser, these organizations need to understand that this technique strikes people as strange, and they don’t trust it. There are other ways to donate to causes you believe in.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 208 other followers