Halifax Regional Police are warning that a couple are scamming churches and other charitable organizations, asking for financial aid to help them make it through this Christmas season.

Const. Brian Palmeter said the couple generally asks for money for rent, food, utilities or supplies for their three children.

He said the couple has been using this scam year-round, and targets charities.

"This couple uses this scam to make their living, and it's not a one-time thing," Palmeter said Wednesday. "They go from church to church, organization to organization, and may, in fact, be travelling around the province and even further."

Palmeter couldn't say whether any church has been taken in by this appeal, but he said churches should be on guard because the couple is only asking for cash — not Christmas gifts or food baskets.

Organizations should try to verify the recipients' identities before giving them any money, he said. Police also recommend writing a cheque instead of giving cash in order to create a paper trail.

If the money is for rent or another bill, he said the cheque would be written to the business that is owed the money.

Rev. Trent Cleveland-Thompson, at Fort Massey United Church in Halifax, is not surprised that someone is trying to exploit the Christmas season for personal gain. "Nothing new, really," he said Wednesday.


Rev. Trent Cleveland-Thompson, of Fort Massey United Church in Halifax, isn't surprised that some people try to take advantage of charities. ((CBC))

A minister for 25 years, Cleveland-Thompson has come to expect that some people will try to take advantage of charity.

"You often find people will try to take advantage of the situation, the Christmas season, the goodwill of people and certainly churches, because we're in the business of doing goodwill," he said.

The church in south-end Halifax has an active Christmas giving campaign, Cleveland-Thomas said, and a few regulars who come looking for help.

The congregation also contributes to food banks and other organizations that are better equipped to catch frauds, because they're in the business of assessing these types of claims year-round. 

Cleveland-Thompson said if he has doubts about people asking for help, he sends their request to one of those organizations.

"Most of the time I think we get it right," he said. "There may be the odd time when we don't get it right, but it doesn't preclude us from doing what we feel we need to do, that's just the nature of what we do."

Cleveland-Thompson said churches can't stop helping people just because a few of the requests are fraudulent.

"We keep doing it because there are so many people who are legit. We need to help, and do help. They're the ones we're concerned about," he said.