Police seeking to identify person of interest in charity fraud case

Ottawa Police are looking to identify a person of interest in an alleged fraud case at the Rideau Centre.

Police say around 9:00 p.m. on March 31, a woman told a man near the Mackenzie King entrance that she was collecting for an unknown charity. She led him to a nearby ATM so he could withdraw some money.

Once the man had entered his PIN, police say the woman moved him aside and withdrew “an unauthorized amount” of cash from his bank account.

Police believe the victim was targeted due to his cognitive disability.

The person of interest police are looking for is described as an Asian woman, about 35 years old, with a small build. She was wearing a black jacket and black pants at the time.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Ottawa Police Criminal Investigations Unit at 613-236-1222, ext. 5166. Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), or by downloading the Ottawa Police app.

Police are also providing tips for dealing with people who say they’re collecting money for charity, be it in person, over the phone, or online:

  • Be wary of appeals that tug at your heart strings, especially pleas involving patriotism and current events.
  • Ask for written information about the charity, including name, address and telephone number. A legitimate charity or fund-raiser will give you information about the charity's mission, how your donation will be used and proof that your contribution is tax deductible.
  • Check out the charity's financial information. For many organizations, this information can be found online.
  • Ask for identification. If the solicitor refuses to tell you or does not have some form or verifiable identification, hang up or close the door and report it to law enforcement officials.
  • Call the charity. Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. If not, you may be dealing with a scam artist.
  • Check with local recipients. If giving to local organizations is important to you, make sure they will benefit from your generosity. If a charity tells you that your dollars will support a local organization, such as a fire department, police department or hospital, call the organization to verify the claim.
  • Watch out for similar sounding names. Some phony charities use names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations. If you notice a small difference from the name of the charity you intend to deal with, call the organization you know to check it out.
  • Be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge you don't remember making. If you have any doubts about whether you've made a pledge or previously contributed, check your records. Be on the alert for invoices claiming you've made a pledge. Some unscrupulous solicitors use this approach to get your money.
  • Ask how your donation will be distributed. How much will go to the program you want to support (as opposed to other programs of the non-profit), and how much will cover the charity's administrative and telemarketing costs?
  • Refuse high pressure appeals. Legitimate fund-raisers won't push you to give on the spot.
  • Be wary of charities offering to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect your donation immediately.
  • Consider the costs. When buying merchandise or tickets for special events, or when receiving "free" goods in exchange for giving, remember that these items cost money and generally are paid for out of your contribution. Although this can be an effective fund-raising tool, less money may be available for the charity.
  • Be wary of guaranteed sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. According to law, you never have to donate anything to be eligible to win.
  • Avoid cash gifts. Cash can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it's best to pay by check.