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Vancouver charity leader speaks out after being targeted in fake advertising scheme

Click to play video: 'B.C. charity warns of elaborate advertising scam'
B.C. charity warns of elaborate advertising scam
A B.C.-based charity is warning the public of an elaborate advertising scam that saw it lose more than $1,000. Kylie Stanton reports – Feb 22, 2023

A Vancouver-based charity says it has been targeted and ripped off by a scamming operation.

The Stigma-Free Society, which is a charity focused on “combating stigma of all kinds with a focus on mental health,” said it was targeted by a scamming operation that falsely sold them advertising space.

“(We) are a smaller charity,” said Andrea Paquette, Stigma-Free Society’s president.

“We don’t have tons of dollars, like multi-million dollar charities do, for advertising.”

The charity’s president said she was contacted by a company named Konect Media in July, who offered to help them advertise through a partnership with IGA and reusable bags.

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“Paquette received an email from Kent Trimble, a (self-described) sales representative for Konect Media,” charity staff said in a release.

“He (piqued) her interest in securing a spot as one of eight local partners to be prominently featured on 10,000 reusable grocery bags to be sold at IGA on Robson Street.”

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Paquette said she then talked to the sales rep on the phone, and called IGA to verify the reusable bag partnership, which did verify the agreement.

The president then issued $1,500 to Konect Media for the supposed advertising space. A few months went by with multiple emails sent to the media company, which were not responded to, only to be finally contacted with some art work that would be shown in the advertising.

That was the last contact the charity had with the supposed media company.

More than two months later, zero contact has been made.

IGA declined an interview regarding the matter. However, the Robson store location will help recoup the lost funds as it said it will hold an in-store fundraiser for the society.

“People often feel ashamed and stigmatized when falling victim to a scam, but I am here to tell others to be on guard for deception. How is it possible for someone to sleep at night knowing they have negatively impacted the public and their accessibility to mental health education for kids? It is bewildering and extremely disheartening,” Paquette said.

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The Stigma-Free Society has contacted the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre to report the scam.

The Better Business Bureau, a non-profit organization that focuses on “helping customers find businesses and charities they trust,” was notified of the scam as well.

”It is really, really unfortunate. It’s a smart scam and it’s well targeted,” said Neesha Hothi, Better Business Bureau’s director of marketing and communications.

“They’ve gone to an organization that obviously doesn’t have a lot of extra marketing dollars. They came with what seemed like a really smart solution.

“(Scammers) will always prey on the most vulnerable. Those that are looking to accomplish more with less.”

Stigma-Free Society said it is speaking out to hopefully prevent any other charity or company from falling into the same or similar trap.

Click to play video: 'Investigators release video of Vancouver senior scam suspect'
Investigators release video of Vancouver senior scam suspect

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