Senior America's Information Magazine


Scams and frauds

Charity fraud

Scams and frauds have always been a problem.  But in the last decade or so, a new type of fraud has come up that has started to devastate legitimate charities.  

Charity fraud is widespread and preys on seniors in individually small, but cumulatively, very large ways.  While legitimate charities learn how to get by on relatively small change and scrimp and cut back, fraudulent charities are making bucket loads of money for their operators.

People running fake charities went global after the 9/11 terrorist attacks because people were in a giving frame of mind.  It was the big chance to get a lot and get it quickly.  There was suddenly a big rush of obscure charity drives hitting neighborhood after neighborhood, standing on street corners with their buckets, and even stopping traffic to donate a buck or two.  Nice, well-dressed individuals wearing long skirts, or white shirts and ties, and being ever so polite were suddenly swooping in for the kill.

Charity conmen (or women) create fictitious charities, often throwing words like “Christian”, “children”, “orphan”, “hunger”, “homeless”, or pitiful words into the name of the organization, popped up all over the place looking for a few bucks a piece on average.  

Since they were only looking for a few dollars, they seldom received checks, just pocket or purse money.  If they received a check, no problem.  Maybe they cashed it, maybe they didn’t.  It was a small piece anyway.

Seniors are a prime target for charity fraud.  Most seniors have learned sympathy for others, have little experience with fraud, and often have a little cash laying around the house.  Seniors are less likely to be suspicious or stingy and on average think more about ‘reaping what they sow’.  In general, they’re nicer and more giving.  

Charity conmen take advantage of this, showing up at the door and asking the senior to donate money to hungry children or whatever the cause of the day may be.  Even at an average of a few dollars per person, the conman easily takes in hundreds of tax-free dollars per hour.  If he sets up a few workers and pays them off, he can make much more than that.

Aside from being illegal, charity fraud occasionally makes headlines and makes people less confident about giving their money away to legitimate charities.  Charities lose the money that is given to the conmen plus suffer the consequences of lost confidence in charities in general.  Though these conmen can and do go to jail, the jail sentences are relatively insignificant compared to the potential gain and the risk of getting caught.  

What we need is new laws with long mandatory jail sentences.  Many think that these sentences should be carried out at hard labor and we agree.  Conmen running charity frauds need to know that society considers their crime despicable because it preys on and exclusively effects the people that need legitimate charity the most.

Disclaimer:  These pages are created to inform and educate the public only.  They are not and should not be considered legal opinions or advice.  You do not and cannot have any client-attorney relationship with SeniorMag or any of its employees.  You should not act upon legal advice found on SeniorMag and are advised to seek professional counsel before taking any action based upon information found on this site. 


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