Giving for a bad cause?

Giving for a bad cause?
An insider's look into the operations of "social enterprises" that sometimes misrepresent themselves as charities in order to solicit donations from the public.

You may have seen them while you were out shopping at Orchard Road.

Teens and youths armed with clipboards and lanyards trying to convince you to buy an item or donate money for a good cause.

Some claim to be collecting on behalf of charities. Others say they work for private organisations that are not charities but social enterprises. If you bite, you end up paying them $10 for a cheap trinket like a pen, keychain or voucher.

Mr Cliff Neo, 28, has never bought from or given money to street vendors.

"I was approached by a pair of them before, but the other legit peddlers seemed to know that they were scammers," said Mr Neo.

"They nearly came to blows. One group went, 'Eh, excuse me, you don't have licence, why you here? You don't come and spoil market okay!'"

It is a crime to collect donations in the name of registered charities without necessary permits. (See report above.)

SUPPORTING DISABLED

One company known as Build A Smile Foundation claimed to be supporting Mouth And Foot Painting Artists (MFPA), a company that sells works of art by disabled artists.

They would buy stacks of gift cards from MFPA and resell them on the street for a profit, using their name and cause as a selling point.

But MFPA told The New Paper that it does not consider itself a charity.

It also said it attempted to lodge a police report against Build A Smile Foundation for dishonestly reselling their products, but claimed it was advised that no action could be taken unless the touts were caught red-handed.

According to Build A Smile Foundation's website, the touts have since ceased operations. When TNP visited the address listed on the company's website, their offices were locked but the lights were on inside.

A middle-aged man who declined to be named told TNP: "If you're looking for a job, there are better opportunities elsewhere."

When asked to elaborate on the company's activities, he said before hurrying away: "I can't say much. The law has many grey areas."

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