Vancouver charity targeted by scam operation in fake advertising scheme, staff say – BC
The Vancouver-based charity says it was targeted and deceived by fraudulent activity.
The Stigma Free Society, a charity focused on “fighting stigma of all kinds with a focus on mental health,” said it had been targeted by fraudulent attempts to falsely sell advertising space.
“(We are) a smaller charity,” said Andrea Puckett, president of the Stigma-Free Association.
“We don’t have a ton of money for advertising like a multi-million dollar charity.”
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The charity’s president said she was approached in July by a company called Konect Media, which offered to help advertise through a partnership with IGA and reusable bags.
“Packet received an email from Kent Trimble, a (self-proclaimed) sales representative for Konect Media,” the charity staff said in a release.
“He piqued her interest in securing a spot as one of eight local partners to be featured prominently in the 10,000 reusable grocery bags sold at the IGA on Robson Street. ) gave me.”
Puckett said he later spoke with a sales rep on the phone and called IGA to confirm the reusable bag partnership and confirmed the deal.
The president then issued $1,500 to Konect Media for the supposed advertising space. Months went by, and multiple emails were sent to the media company, but they never responded, but eventually contacted them about the artwork that would appear in the ad.
That was the last contact the charity had with the supposed media company.
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It’s been over 2 months since then and I haven’t heard back.
The IGA declined to be interviewed on this matter. However, Robson’s store location states that they will be holding an in-store fundraiser for the association, so it will help recoup lost funds.
“People often feel ashamed and stigmatized when they fall victim to fraud, but I am here to tell others to be wary of fraud. How can someone sleep at night knowing that mental health education is so accessible?
The Stigma-Free Society contacted the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center to report the fraud.
The Better Business Bureau, a non-profit organization focused on “helping customers find trustworthy businesses and charities,” also received fraud notices.
“It’s really, really disappointing. This is a sophisticated and targeted scam,” said Neesha Hothi, director of marketing and communications at the Better Business Bureau.
“They went to an organization that obviously didn’t have a lot of extra marketing money. They offered what looked like a really smart solution.
“[Crooks]always prey on the most vulnerable people. Those who are trying to achieve more with less.”
The Stigma Free Society speaks out to prevent other charities and businesses from falling into the same or similar traps.
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