British Columbia

Poppy fund campaigner warns about phone scam and other schemes

Fraudsters purporting to be from the Royal Canadian Legion Poppy Campaign are phoning people up and asking for donations and credit card numbers.

Fraudsters are working the phones asking people for donations and credit card numbers

Poppies at a war memorial. The administrator of the Vancouver Poppy Fund is warning people about a phone scam asking for poppy fund donations. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

The Royal Canadian Legion 2019 poppy campaign kicked off on Oct. 25, about the same day the head of the Vancouver Poppy Fund got wind of a new scam trying to cash in, in the lead up to Remembrance Day.

Jim Howard said a regular donor to the legion reported receiving a phone call from someone posing as a Royal Canadian Legion Poppy Campaign volunteer. The caller asked the woman for a donation and her credit card number.

"I told her no, that's not the way we solicit," said Howard. 

Howard says others outside of Vancouver have received similar calls and counts the scheme as one of many trying to exploit the sincere goodwill of people who want to support Canadian veterans. 

Money from the official poppy campaign goes into a trust and provides assistance to veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP and their families. About $2.5 million is raised every year in B.C.

In Alberta, fake collection stations consisting of a tin can emblazoned with a poppy between two maple leafs have been spotted. The phone number listed on the can also appears to be a fake.

White poppies. ((CBC))

"They have no idea who's behind it," said Howard. "It's just a can [to collect money]. There's no poppies."

Howard also has concerns about the growing number of poppy types being sold where it's not entirely clear who is benefiting.

The white poppy is meant to symbolize anti-war and pacifist sentiments and purple poppies commemorate service animals like horses and dogs that died in war. There's even a rainbow poppy that has popped up in the U.K., purporting to support LGBT service men and women. 

Unlike the Royal Canadian Legion red poppy which is obtained by donation to the legionnaires and cadets who volunteer, other versions are sold for a set price. 

"You can get them online, or some stores have white poppies on their counter, but if you ask the person behind the counter where the money is going, they just sort of mumble something," said Howard. "Either they don't understand or they don't care."

According to Howard, past problems with grab-and-dash criminals stealing donation containers from stores have been greatly reduced thanks to a top secret change.

"We've worked out a security program for it but I'm not going to tell you," he said.

The Royal Canadian Legion secured the copyright for the red poppy in 1948, to "ensure that the poppy is not used for commercial or personal gain ..." 

Howard says he's pleased with the number of poppies he's spotted around town this year.

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