Giving for a bad cause?

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.)


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."


In our encounter with a peddler, he told us that he was not raising money for charity.

Instead he was working part-time with a "social enterprise" called Independant A to earn money for himself.

He then attempted to sell us vouchers for a pet accessories shop.

When contacted, the director of Independant A, Mr Andrew, who declined to give his last name, said: "Don't mix us up with the fake charities people. Our guys are very educated, they are taught to say that they are not a charity.

"My number is always there (on the form). If people have any issues, they can always call me to verify."

Mr Andrew claimed his company hires mostly former offenders or youths from low-income backgrounds.


Then there is Alliance Career Entrepreneurship (ACE), which had raised funds for En Community Services Society (ECSS) which helps dysfunctional families.

ACE representatives were seen selling products on the day TNP visited Orchard Road last month.

ECSS executive director Carol Tan said her charity had an agreement with ACE to raise funds for them. ACE's license to raise funds was valid from Feb 10 2014 to May 10 2014, according to ECSS' website.

ACE donated a fixed sum of about $3,000 a month to ECSS, said ECSS' project director Patrick Oh, 50.

But ACE was not supposed to solicit donations using ECSS' name, as the profits ACE earns from street sales go to ACE first, said Mr Oh.

ACE's marketing director, Mr Cavin Tan, said it makes about $12,000 from sales a month. ECSS has received numerous complaints and queries from the public since they started using ACE, a third party, as a source of income. Mrs Tan believes this is because of other fake charity groups making the public suspicious. Sounding frustrated, she said: "The wicked people out there should be more considerate so that us volunteers can do our work. "I am not a sales staff, I just want to help people... Nowadays I get so many calls, if I see a missed call from an unknown number, I won't reply." LOOPHOLES Mr Oh said the current system of collecting donations has many loopholes, including permits that are easy to forge. Together with Mr Tan, he is proposing amendments to the current form to have certain features that can help the public to authenticate the licence, including a QR code that links to the charity's website and the inclusion of the Singapore Police Force's emblem. "We hope to come up with a system that can benefit all parties and assure donors," he said.

Are they legal?

The Commissioner of Charities (COC) has received feedback twice last year about teenagers claiming to represent Build A Smile Foundation and selling items to the public.

The spokesman for the COC's office said these teenagers had claimed it was to benefit the underprivileged. The spokesman said: "(Engaging in) bogus fund-raising activities is tantamount to cheating and is a crime." Here are some ways to tell true from false:


WHO: These are people authorised by registered charities to collect donations on their behalf.

They can be part of the charity organisation, or staff from a company that has been hired by charities to collect donation on their behalf.

HOW TO TELL: They have a licence issued by either the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) or the police.


l Text "FR" to 79777 to find out whether the NCSS/ police licence number is valid.

l Scan the QR code on the permit, which goes directly to an online search facility of fund-raising permits approved by NCSS.


WHO: They do not collect for charity, but sell things to you on the streets for profit. They are not allowed to say they are raising funds for charities.

HOW TO TELL: They have a licence from the National Environment Agency (NEA) or a special logo on the business card.


They show an A4-size street hawking licence from NEA.

*Have a Direct Selling Association of Singapore (DSAS) logo on the business card if seller is a DSAS member.


WHO: They claim funds go to charity, but have no licence or a fake licence.

HOW TO TELL: Unless they have the permit stated in (1) or (2), they are selling things illegally.

If you suspect a fraudulent case, lodge a police report.

This article was published on May 14 in The New Paper.

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