A prominent Winnipeg homeless shelter, along with police and consumer advocates, are reminding people to be cautious after a series of fraudulent solicitation swept the city this past holiday season.
Three instances of fake solicitation were reported to Winnipeg’s Siloam Mission in the lead up to Christmas.
Individuals using fraudulent identification went door-to-door claiming to represent the charity. Two of these cases were reported in south Pembina and one in Oak Bank.
The police were not contacted, but Siloam was informed and put a message out to the public on its official website that the charity does not engage in door-to-door solicitation.
“When people are willing to commit a crime like this, naturally they are willing to be rude if they are turned down,” said Floyd Perras, the mission’s executive director. “That makes a bad image for the organization.”
Although Perras was not familiar with scams of this nature occurring in Winnipeg before, he told of a larger, more organized operation that had occurred in Calgary in which children were recruited from a mall to sell chocolates for a fake charity.
Winnipeg police Const. Jason Michalyshen said this sort of scam is common.
“Unfortunately we do receive numerous complaints throughout the year where people go door-to-door making attempts to misrepresent themselves,” he said.
“These individuals target certain groups - often the elderly, or vulnerable people. Our message to the public is that it is best to report this to the police if unsure, and also to ask for identification.”
Michalyshen reiterated the importance of contacting the police when these crimes occur.
Penalties for engaging in this activity vary.
“Fraud is fraud, and depending on the nature of the crime there could be a variety of other charges, such as mischief and theft. That is up to the courts,” Michalyshen said.
Glenn Cassie of the Consumer Protection Agency said the best option when unsure of the legitimacy of a solicitor is to contact the police.
“The consumer protection agency does have information on charities but in the case of flat out fraud it is more a police issue,” said Cassie.
Siloam Mission benefits from volunteers in many ways and encourages anyone with an interest to contribute.
“Volunteers bring energy, and skills we wouldn’t otherwise have,” said Floyd. “We have volunteer medical staff, fitness training, policy writing ... basically whatever someone is passionate about.”
Published in Volume 66, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 11, 2012)