Charity fraud is the act or attempt to deceive an individual or organization that solicits donations on behalf of a cause. It is a form of criminal fraud.

How Does This Type of Fraud Occur?

A person uses high-pressure methods to make a donor give money to the charity. It may be a legitimate charity or one that sounds similar to a reputable organization. For example, the perpetrator may take advantage of a tragic situation or event to appeal for money from donors. While trying to convince the potential donor, they may use a compelling, heartfelt story about devastated people who need help. They assure the donors the money donated will reach the charity. However, instead of passing the money along to the charity, the scam artist keeps the money.

How Is the Fraud Perpetrated?

The fraud can happen in a variety of ways, including the Internet or email. The person could also call on the phone or ask potential donors on the street. 

Will the Person Ask Me for Money?

Yes. However, they will generally ask for credit card or bank account numbers, too.

Is This a Crime of False Pretenses?

Yes, the person committing fraud can be charged with false pretenses in some jurisdictions. False pretenses occur when someone misrepresents facts or lies to obtain something of value from an individual.

Is There a Difference between False Pretenses and Larceny by Trick?

Yes. While both false pretenses and larceny by trick involve obtaining the property of another, the elements of false pretenses also include:

  • By means of making an intentional false statement
  • With the intent to defraud the other individual

Larceny by trick, on the other hand, is simply the taking of property of another by deception or coercion with the intent to permanently deprive. In other words, larceny by trick does not require making a false statement like false pretenses do, even though a false statement may be made in both cases.

Do I Need to Talk to a Lawyer about Charity Fraud?

Yes, if you have been accused or charged with this kind of fraud, talk to a criminal lawyer. The lawyer will explain your legal options and possible defenses.