The Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB) is cautioning the public after nationwide reports of alleged grocery store scams involving people posing as non-profit officials to collect donations.
The CFB said reports of scams first started trickling in three months ago and ramped up in January. Both officials and members of the public have spotted fraudulent displays in grocery stores across the province including in London, Chatham and Ingersoll, said officials.
Often those incidents involve an individual behind a table that has a donation box and so-called CFB banners and information sheets on it. Some displays also include signs that show a person in a wheelchair, with both a cane and a guide dog.
“It’s frustrating as a person who’s trying to give back to wonder why people would do this,” said Kerry Kijewski, secretary of the CFB Ontario chapter. “Why greed?”
Kijewski said officials have also received reports of scams in Winnipeg and believe others may be taking place in Alberta.
“We feel like it’s harmful to our reputation. They’re asking for money in a way that we don’t do and they’re doing it with our name,” said Kijewski. “The federation’s source of funding comes from online donations, magazine advertisements and interactive events like barbecues — not by setting up displays in grocery stores.”
“As far as how we raise money, we prefer to do it by sharing who we are and what we do and making the public aware that blind people are just as capable of anyone else so we like to offer something in return when we raise money,” she said. “We just feel like we don’t want to stand there asking for money because we don’t like to just perpetuate and myths and stereotypes that do still exist in many places. That blind people are dependent and … that they are not as capable.”
Kijewski said the federation, that’s been around for about two decades, may be a target for alleged scammers because it’s not “super well known.”
“They figure it’s a generic sounding organization for the blind and people will believe it. They’ll give us some money for a couple of hours and nobody will catch us and we’ll be gone,” she said.
Kijewski said people have sent in pictures of alleged scammers in London. The identities of the individuals in the photographs remain unknown. However, Kijewski said those individuals could also be victims who have been hired by scam agencies. She’s not sure.
She said the CFB has not filed an official report with the London Police Service. Authorities in other cities like Winnipeg have been contacted.
Kijewski said officials have spoken with and visited several managers of the stores in which the incidents allegedly took place.
Right now, she said officials are using social media like Facebook as a tool to get the message out there.
“We can’t really catch it in the act,” she said, noting officials want to ensure members of the public “don’t think this is us.”