Marilyn Herrmann says a $90

A warning to charities: ‘Cheque’ out donations, they may be fake

Surrey Food Bank disappointed by $90,000 'gift.'

Marilyn Herrmann still doesn’t know what to make of it.

On Wednesday, Sept. 17, a letter arrived at the Surrey Food Bank (SFB) containing a $90,000 cheque, something the charity’s executive director describes as an apparent gift from heaven.

She’d seen donation cheques in the thousands-of-dollars range, but this?

“You don’t open mail like that every day,” Herrmann said.

The cheque’s address was linked to a $9-million home in Ontario that was up for sale.

It seemed too good to be true – and ended up being just that.

Despite some initial optimism, Herrmann did her homework and didn’t rush to deposit it.

The envelope itself came from Nova Scotia and the cheque was issued (on Sept. 11) in Ontario. The name on the cheque yielded no results (including Google and the SFB’s own donor database).

She elected to phone the SFB’s financial institution. Within 15 minutes, they told her the same thing had happened – from the same source – to three other charities, in Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario.

The result: A scrap of paper worth nothing.

“If this is a scam, what are they gaining?” Herrmann asks.

One theory, entertained by SFB board member and RCMP Sgt. Dale Carr, is that the cheque would be deposited, and before it would be flagged by the bank, someone would call and claim they wrote down $90,000 in error – perhaps $9,000 or $900.

The caller would then ask the charity to mail them a cheque minus what they mean to deposit.

Herrmann isn’t sure if the cheque is the result of identity theft or other activity, but hopes other well-meaning charities don’t get scammed with attempts like these.

For now, having lost nothing, all Herrmann has is lingering curiosity. And a memento.

“I’ve still got the cheque in front of me.”



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