A Victoria charity is warning others of a scam involving reusable grocery bags after losing $1,500 to the scheme, which also snared a North Vancouver mortgage consultant that lost $1,100.
The Stigma-Free Society, a Victoria-based charity that offers educational tools on stigma to educators and families, went public this week to warn non-profit organizations and the business community about the scam perpetrated by a company calling itself Konect Media.
“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,” said society president Andrea Paquette. “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.”
It began in July 2022 when the society was approached by a representative of Konect Media and offered advertising space on 10,000 reusable grocery bags, which would be handed out to customers of a Vancouver grocery store. The cost was $1,500.
“The offer was not ‘too good to be true’ but reasonable and innovative,” Paquette said. “It was an opportunity for us to reach the public with the charity’s stigma-free message about their mental-health programming.”
Paquette contacted the grocery store, which confirmed the project was real.
After paying for the advertising up front, Paquette heard less and less from Konect as it finalized the artwork that was to appear on the bags. Emails to the project co-ordinator eventually went unanswered.
After unsuccessfully trying to contact the company for two and a half months, Paquette decided to go public as a warning to others.
Upon hearing of the situation, the grocery store, an IGA on Robson Street, contacted Paquette, offering to host an in-store fundraiser to help recover the stolen funds.
A legitimate company that produces reusable grocery bags also offered to feature the Stigma-Free Society on grocery bags handed out at the Victoria Public Market this summer at no cost.
The society has reported the scam to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, an initiative of the RCMP, Competition Bureau Canada and the Ontario Provincial Police.
The organization received reports of more than 91,000 cases of fraud in 2022, with 57,000 victims and losses of more than $531 million. It estimates that only five to 10 per cent of victims of a fraud file a report.
• For more information, or to report a scam, go to antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm.