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December 21, 2011 06:00 ET

BMO: Don't Fall Prey To Fraudulent Charities This Holiday Season

- Canadians will donate an average of $487 in 2011

- Charitable donations usually spike during the holiday season and so do fraudulent charity schemes

- It's critical for Canadians to do their due diligence before making a donation

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 21, 2011) - With the holiday season underway, many Canadians are getting into the spirit and showing their generosity to various charitable causes. According to a recent BMO Harris Private Banking survey, Canadians are no Grinches - almost 70 per cent indicated they plan on donating a total of $487 to charities in 2011.

"It's encouraging to see Canadians giving generously to causes that help those who are less fortunate," said Marvi Ricker, Vice President & Managing Director of Philanthropic Services, BMO Harris Private Banking. "However, it's important, especially during the holidays, to be mindful that our generosity can be abused. Unfortunately, every December many Canadians fall prey to pleas for assistance that appear on the surface to be genuine and legitimate but then turn out to be fraudulent."

BMO Harris Private Banking's Marvi Ricker offers the following advice on how Canadians can spot and avoid fraudulent charitable requests this holiday season:

Verify Legitimacy: Ask those soliciting donations for proof of their identity and to provide the charity's registered name, address and telephone number. Once this information is provided, be sure to verify with the Canada Revenue Agency that the organization is a registered charity or is affiliated with one. If you suspect something is not right but still want to donate, call the charity to ensure that they are aware of the solicitation by the individual.

Avoid Giving Cash: If the agency turns out not to be a registered charity, it is difficult to reclaim cash donations. Offer to make a donation online (after you do your research), or write a cheque and address it to the charity rather than the soliciting individual.

Be Wary of Rewards: Sound too good to be true? It probably is. Some illegitimate groups will promise grand prizes and sweepstakes as a reward for making a contribution. Be aware that most charitable organizations offer minimal to no incentives, as contributions tend to go directly to the cause itself.

Where is your money going? Be sure to ask solicitors where your charitable donations will be going within the organization, specifying what percentage will be credited to its solicitors, and how much to the cause. Legitimate, registered charities will have this information readily available.

Obtain a Tax Receipt: Always ask for proof that your contribution has been submitted. Not only will this benefit you at tax-time, but if a charity is unable to provide you with an official receipt, it is a warning sign that the charity is not registered.

Ms. Ricker also reminds Canadians that one of the best ways to be charitable this season is to support their local United Way/Centraide.

To find a list of registered Canadians charities visit the Canada Revenue Agency at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/charities/

Additional tips and advice on how to stretch your donations can be found at: http://newsroom.bmo.com/press-releases/bmo-philanthropy-report-canadians-keep-giving-des-201111150744898001

For more information on charitable giving please visit: www.bmo.com/harrisprivatebanking

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