Scammed by charity fraud

When the teenager at her door identified herself as a nursing student, Madam Melisse Lee Daimwood immediately felt a soft spot for her.

After all, she had had a good experience with nurses when she gave birth to her firstborn.

So when the teen claimed she was from a local polytechnic and asked for donations to help her school raise funds for a "charity", Madam Daimwood thought nothing of it.

She gave $10 and got a coin bank in return. But it turned out to be a scam.

On Thursday, in a posting on its Facebook page, Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) warned the public about a fund-raising scam.

It also said the girl was not a student of the polytechnic, but did not specify the polytechnic she was from.

The TTSH Facebook page states that the programme called "Singapore Young Hearts charity" is not registered under the hospital.

A Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth spokesman also said there is no such organisation.

Madam Daimwood, 32, a graphic designer, told The New Paper on Thursday that the teen had appeared at her Redhill flat on Oct 21, claiming she was raising funds for TTSH's "Singapore Young Hearts charity".

She said the "charity" was for children needing heart transplants.

Madam Daimwood recalled: "She looked like a student. She looked young, spoke well and looked tired, as if she did a lot of sports."

But she suspected there was something fishy going on when the student, after collecting her money, voluntarily told her she could get the coin bank scanned at the Police Cantonment Complex to confirm the charity's authenticity.

Curious, Madam Daimwood called the number on the bottom of the coin bank after the student left. She was put through to a clinic which told her it had no idea of such a "charity".

She then called the National Youth Council, whose number was given as contact in the laminated "permit" the student had showed her earlier. She also called TTSH. Both said they were not aware of the "charity".

Madam Daimwood realised she had been tricked.

NURSING DIPLOMAS

Two out of five polytechnics in Singapore offer nursing diplomas.

Spokesmen for Nanyang and Ngee Ann Polytechnic told TNP that they are not involved in any fund-raising or donation drives.

TTSH urged the public to inform the police if approached and to be vigilant of the scam.

Mr Tony Tay, 66, founder of Willing Hearts, a non-profit organisation that helps the needy in Singapore, told TNP: "If these (scammers) need help, they can come to us and we can help them find a reasonable job."

A spokesman for Singapore Red Cross advised public donors to be more aware when making donations.

They included a tab named "Current Fund Raisers" on their website for the public to check on existing projects.

Commercial crimes, which consist of mostly cheating and related offences, fell by 264 cases from 1,841 cases last year to 1,577 this year.

The police stated on their website that they will continue with their crime prevention efforts to further reduce scams. It advised the public to stay cautious of fund-raising scams.

Other scams

May 2013

Scammers approached victims on the streets or at their homes to collect donations on behalf of Willing Hearts, a volunteer run, non-profit organisation that provides 3,000 daily meals to the needy in Singapore.

These scammers even gave receipts with the charity's logo and address.

The organisation has since put up a warning on their website that they do not conduct street, door to- door or face-to-face donation drives.

April 2013

The Diabetic Society of Singapore warned the public of a fund-raising scam after several people were reported to have been asking for donations in their name.

It said the public is not to donate to those seeking funds on behalf of the society through these methods.

March 2013

The Singapore Red Cross (SRC) made a police report after being notified of "volunteers" seeking donations on their behalf.

These volunteers would approach the public on the streets and show a fund-raising licence and documents with the charity's logo.

An SRC spokesman said these people had nothing to do with the organisation and that the public should report them to the police if approached by them.

In 2009, the SRC also had scammers selling Casio G-Shock watches for $25 each under their name.

September 2011

Scammers sold ice cream, keychains and pens, claiming they were helping former convicts.

The Yellow Ribbon Project said it sold only yellow ribbons and not other items to raise funds.

DONATE WITH CAUTION

Before donating to anyone, you should check if the individual is authorised to raise funds on behalf of a charity.

Under the House to House and Street Collections Act, anyone who solicits for donations must have a licence from the police or the National Council of Social Service.

These permits are issued only to organisations and not to individuals.

The valid permits have an approval number. If you are doubtful, send an SMS to 79777 using the following format: "FR".

The website of Commissioner of Charities said this SMS facility allows members of the public to verify the authenticity of the fund-raising activities they encounter.

You will receive a reply indicating whether the organisation has a valid licence or certificate.

You should always ask to see these necessary documents and proof.

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