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145. 'Tis The Season

By Andrew D. Wright

With the holiday season approaching, thoughts turn to the less fortunate. Giving to a charity is a good way to help out but watch out for scammers.

Real charities do not need to rush your donation. If they're in a hurry for you to donate or will send a courier right over, be suspicious.

Genuine charities will be ready and eager to give you information like their physical address, phone number, and business hours. They will have no issue with you verifying this information before making a donation.

A scam artist may be using VOIP (voice over internet protocol) as cheap long distance from an illegal call center somewhere else and not have this information handy or try to dissuade you from using the real information.

Canadian charities are registered with the Canada Revenue Agency. The CRA website lists all Canadian charities complete with past tax returns. Revoked, suspended, penalized and annuled charities are listed there. A charity can be looked up by name or by its registration number. Official tax receipts must include this registration number and the CRA website address.

Be wary of charities that claim to offer larger tax receipts than the amount donated. If you get something back for your donation, such as free tickets to an event, the value (which CRA calls an advantage) must be deducted from the donation amount on the tax receipt by the charity. Charities are not required to issue tax receipts but they must tell potential donors in advance under what circumstances they won't issue a tax receipt.

Scammers may use fake charity names that are easily mistaken for real, legitimate charities. Confirming the identity of the charity is easy to do, look them up in the phone book and call them. Remember not to accept anything the voice on the phone or the email says at face value. Look up the information yourself.

If you are donating to a charity on their website, check the name on the secure site certificate and make sure that its details match the charity. Click on the padlock that appears when on the secure site to see the secure certificate. On Internet Explorer it will be next to the address bar, while in Firefox it will be at the bottom of the Firefox window.

A real site certificate will give no errors and the organization name will be in the certificate information when you click on View Certificate. Extra security EV-SSL certificates will turn the address bar bright green on all current web browsers and show the verified legal name of the organization.

Two local charities which both work to bridge the digital divide and help people on fixed incomes are reBOOT Nova Scotia and the Chebucto Community Net.

reBOOT Nova Scotia helps provide free and low cost computers to people based on their needs. They accept donations of used computers (call first to let them know what you have) and money. Parts that are too old can be recycled and the rest can be restored. They offer new-to-you Pentium 4 level computers to the public for $100 - $225 and free or heavily discounted computers to qualifying individuals based on their circumstances. reBOOT Nova Scotia is an affiliate of reBOOT Canada.

Chebucto Community Net is the oldest Internet provider in the province and one of the first community nets in Canada. It provides internet connectivity and free and low cost web hosting and services for people, community groups and small businesses bringing many of them online for the first time. A registered charity and volunteer-run organization, CCN accepts donations of money and volunteer time.


Seasons Greetings to Mousepad readers and best wishes for 2009!


Canada Revenue Agency:


reBOOT Nova Scotia:


Chebucto Community Net:


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Originally published 18 December 2008


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