Strangers bearing checks

9 Jan

A $25,000 check coming out of the blue seems almost too good to be true. And that’s exactly what it was for the Salvation Army in Charleston. Long story short, they received a $25,000 check in the mail from a company they’d never heard of, deposited it and spent a portion of the money on Christmas gifts and food for clients. 

Trouble is, the check was bad, written on an account that had been closed months ago. This leaves the Salvation Army of Charleston in dire straits. Sounds like a disgruntled former employee to me, and I hope local law enforcement prosecutes. 

The mystery of the bouncing check

Here is the lesson to be learned here. Call your donors. Getting a check of that size that you were not expecting from a company that had never donated before might not have immediately make you suspicious. But frankly, it should make you pick up the phone, if only to thank the mysterious donor. 

The “thank you phone call” would have revealed the hoax. This was evidently the case with several other Charleston area charities which received checks and discovered the hoax before they attempted to deposit the check, much less spend it. 

I’m not casting dispersions on the Salvation Army. They do great work and they spent the money on their clients. But this is a learning opportunity for us all. Manna from heaven deserves a phone call, even and especially if the check is legit. And, oh, yeah, don’t commit funds until they clear. 

The local community seems to be stepping up as best they can, and donations are coming in from across the country. This is fortunate for the Salvation Army, which needs a financial band-aid on this ASAP. 

But I have to think of the other organizations that acted cautiously and responsibly–and aren’t getting any press or donations out of it. While the Salvation Army was indeed the victim of a hoax, their lack of caution allowed them to meet the scammer half way. Gift acceptance or financial policies might have circumvented this situation.

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