How to steal in charity
“You can help this sick child right now!”, “Save this woman with three children, deprived of a livelihood!”. Almost every day we hear such calls, read them on the Internet, see them in ads on the street. We look away, saying in our souls: “the next nonsense”, but our conscience is slowly tingling – “what if it’s true?” In the sea-ocean of foundations and charitable organizations – who to believe? What is better – to donate directly to the afflicted or through intermediaries? Vladimir Berkhin, president of the Tradition Charitable Foundation, an expert in charity, and Svetlana Mashistova, Rusfond’s special correspondent and Internet fraud tracking specialist, talk about how the charitable foundation works and how to recognize fraudsters.
I will begin by recognizing the obvious and unpleasant fact that there is a lot of theft in Russian charity. It is not possible to accurately estimate its volumes either in percent or in absolute figures, in any case, no one was doing this. The reason is simple: no one in the charity world really controls.
The Law on Charitable Organizations and Charitable Activities is dated 1995 and has not changed much since then. And he was adopted in order to regulate the relations of companies with his trust funds, but even then he did not really regulate anything. Since then, the world has changed so much that now no one pays attention to this law. Charitable organizations themselves do not really understand how it can be applied, and the Ministry of Justice, which monitors its implementation, does not really understand how to verify its implementation.
For example, there is a mysterious clause in the law that a charity fund must work under a charity program. Nobody knows what this program is, what formal requirements are presented to it, what should be in it. There is also a provision that the fund should have a board of trustees. Why is it needed, who should be included in it, how people should be selected for advice – it is not clear. He seems to be supposed to approve the fund’s financial report, but again it’s not very clear what will happen if he doesn’t.
And in principle, this is so in everything, the law is extremely vague, can be interpreted very widely, it is very inconvenient to apply it in real life, and even for the Ministry of Justice. And charitable organizations themselves live as they want and all the existing provisions in this law, if necessary, are quite easily and simply circumvented.
The other side of the problem is the so-called “wild charity”. Not the institutional one that goes through charitable organizations, but the one that everyone does on their own, without the involvement of government agencies and any registration, respectively, without any control. In most cases, it goes through personal accounts and is based on the collection of massive private donations.
No legislation on the collection of massive private donations exists in principle. There are no rules on how to properly collect donations, what is to collect donations, how does this differ from other activities, what responsibility does the person who does this, the state has not approved. The state does not follow this in any way and does not punish anyone for it.
To put it simply: if I come up with a tear story about a seriously ill person, I collect a thousand rubles from each of you, and then I go and drink this money, then it will be extremely difficult for you to bring me to any responsibility other than moral. And even if suddenly one of you grabs me and drags me to the police station, saying that I asked for a thousand rubles and didn’t spend what I asked for, they will tell you: “Sorry, 1000 rubles is too little to initiate a criminal case. There is nothing we can help. ”
And if I even asked for 10,000 rubles, and this is already some damage, there will be no evidence that I once took this money from you. In the case when everything is “in words”, it is easier for the police and other regulatory authorities to say: “Sorry, there is no evidence, but did this money exist? Maybe you came up with all this? And for this reason, for some unknown reason, you have a personal dislike? We will not do this. ” They will write a refusal to institute criminal proceedings, and this will end there.
If the money was transferred in a fixed way, for example, by transferring to my card, this fact also will not help, since it does not prove at all that I asked you for it for a charity. You simply transferred money to my card, because you so wanted.
There are some ways to hold you accountable. If we are talking about a large sum, for example, half a million rubles, then other mechanisms come into force, and there is an incentive for law enforcement agencies to investigate such cases: for this you can get a bonus or a letter from the authorities. In such cases, there are occasionally courts and sentences, but they usually end in suspended sentences.
As long as there is no written record of the purpose of the payment, while there is no agreement between the donor and the beneficiary, all this money is just a gift that you somehow decided to make this person.
The temptation to solve your problems a little
Often, people who engage in fraud do have something to do with the issues they write about. It can be friends and mothers of sick children who first started asking for money for a real problem, then saw that it’s quite easy to do, and then the unpleasant and simple thing happens, which is that people are always people and always subject to temptation. I have been involved in charitable gatherings for a very long time and I know how it works and how it affects the brain. When you sit, you have a card, you wrote something on the Internet – and money begins to drip on it. 1,000–5,000–15,000–100,000–150,000. Deciding that this money already belongs to you, that you can do anything with it, is simple, as human nature works. A freebie corrupts people very quickly. A person can start using money very quickly for other purposes. Very few people are able to cope with the temptation to slightly solve their problems at the expense of these grandiose amounts. And if he has already done so, what remains? Just go and ask again to close this hole. And I have to ask for more and more terrible details.
Charges in social networks are the most insecure
Now most of the training takes place on Facebook, Instagram, and VKontakte. If we talk about Facebook and Instagram, there is no control over fees there at all. Complaining about scammers is absolutely pointless, Facebook tech support will offer to turn away and not look at the record that is traumatic for you, the person who collects the money will continue to collect it, and there will be nothing for him. On Instagram, the situation is the same. On the VKontakte social network, the situation is somewhat different: there, technical support responds to user requests and quickly blocks fraudster accounts. But a scammer is a person who collects for a fake story. And most fees are conditionally fraudulent – that is, fees for real children and real stories. But most of these fees are initiated, say, not by the parents of the sick children themselves, but by their friends and relatives.
There was a story with a boy, Vlad Shestakov, they even talked about him at a press conference of Putin. The boy had a neuroblastoma, they wanted to take him to treat either Turkey or Spain, the pickers themselves could not decide. The journalist appealed to the president with a request to influence the doctors who allegedly do not let the child go and allow him to be removed from the country. At that time, about 10 million rubles were collected into the accounts of the mother of the child, while the child died in the hospital after 2 or 3 weeks. The further fate of the money raised allegedly for treatment is unknown. At the same time, the child was real, the disease was real, no one was going to take him anywhere, since at the time of the call to Putin the boy was not transportable. Formally, it is impossible to bring the people who raised the money to justice, since all that was transferred is gifts.
Charges in social networks, no matter how cynical it may sound, is a highly competitive market. There are many help groups, there are many patients who offer a more trashy, more nervous history, he won. What does the public react to? To death, to pain, to horror, to injustice, to some emotions. It is important to say here that I clearly separate the parents of the sick child from the pickers. Charges in social networks are collective processes, the management of the group, say, VKontakte is not the responsibility of the mother of a sick child, she is not up to it, she has a child next to her in the hospital, she comforts him, reassures him, is next to him. The groups are led by volunteers, someone does it at the behest of the soul and heart, someone does it for a percentage – the interests of these groups are completely different.
Last year, I wrote about a fund that was liquidated by court order for failing to report on fees. The fund was founded by a person who had a criminal record for fraud and robbery. The first thing that this man did after his fund was liquidated was to register a fund with the same name, but already in Moscow. That is, it is impossible for a person convicted under Article 159 “Fraud” to prohibit the registration of his own charitable foundation, he cannot be prohibited from collecting money on social networks, and even to write that he is a fraud is impossible, as this will be slander.
And if we are talking about fees on social networks, then an ordinary person, a donor, must first do the work that the foundation’s experts do: check the child’s medical documents and understand what is written in them.
Gathering on the street – one hundred percent fraud
Gathering on the street is a one hundred percent mafia of the poor. Everyone who collects cash in shopping centers, trains, on the streets are deceivers. There is still a separate category of people who ask on the street – these are supposedly representatives of charitable foundations, they are also deceivers. These funds act like this: they find the mother of a sick child and tell her: “Dear Masha, we will give you 10 thousand a month, and you sign an agreement with us.”
“Masha,” who is tortured by life by the fact that she has a child with cerebral palsy, seven more in shops, her husband drinks, ”agrees. And then the fund is absolutely legal, having concluded an agreement with the administration of the shopping center, collects the conditional 100 thousand, of which 10 it throws to mom, the rest it takes to itself. This is an absolutely legal scheme and it is impossible to stop it.
The only thing I can add: in the metro and electric trains of St. Petersburg, you can’t collect money under any guise, here you can grab it, drag it to a police stronghold, call security, because neither the Russian Railways nor the subway give permission to conduct such here are charity events, to anyone, never, and under no circumstances.
Why does everyone want to be treated abroad
There is a persistent myth that abroad everything is treated better. To some extent, this is true; moreover, service is often better in Europe or in Israel. After all, what does the patient see in the first place? He does not understand the meaning of medical manipulations that here, what is there, but there they are more humanly treated, dust can be blown off him if this is an expensive clinic – and this is taken for the best quality of medicine. There is also a mercenary point of view when a patient is sent abroad precisely because it looks more beautiful from the point of view of public relations. There is a feeling that in a distant land there may be a wizard who will perform a miracle. “The disease is incurable in our country, but it can be cured in an experimental clinic in Switzerland, South Korea or Brazil” – this is easier to believe. Moreover, you can’t check it, since the level of foreign language proficiency in Russia is quite low, and even the general public can find out if there really is a clinic that they raise funds for.
In fact, many types of oncological diseases can be treated in Russia no worse than in the West, but Russian diagnostics in this area is quite lame. This is a problem that all foundations have come across repeatedly: when a person goes to the hospital, even at a fairly early stage of the disease, he is not treated for quite a while. There is also a problem that in Russia medicine is very heterogeneous in the country. If a person did not catch on time and did not rush to be treated at the federal center, then in the regions his chances of receiving high-quality medical care are not high. Because of these problems, people want to leave sooner rather to start treatment where they are given a more responsible attitude to patients.
In addition, there is such a problem as medical mediators who are sitting on social networks, tracking who is sick, where they come to him in comments or in private messages and write: “Listen, my aunt was treated in a hospital in Israel. He was cured at the moment, a magical drug, a wonderful doctor, almost free. " They convince a person to go there, and they themselves receive a percentage of the money that he will pay to the hospital. Often the accounts that these people provide are not from the hospital, but from the mediation office providing medical services. Since we are talking either about seriously ill people or about the parents of seriously ill children, these are people who are not always able to adequately assess reality, they are in severe stress, they are scared, and they are ready to believe whoever promises more. This is a completely normal fact of human psychology, which must also be taken into account.
How funds cheat
Funds can also cheat, but this happens less often than in the field of private fees on personal cards, because it is more complicated. Just to get a card, write a tearful post on social networks and ask for money, you don’t need to know or know anything for this. In order to create a fund, you must at least register it. It costs money, requires some minimal organization. And this is the first filter that eliminates even the most lazy and unmotivated “collectors”. In addition, the funds are at the very least, but the state is checking, and already once the open-source fund has to be kept, because if you do not keep it, you will be fined sooner or later.
Donations to the fund are of two types: targeted – in the purpose of the payment of which it is written that they are intended for specific assistance, and non-targeted. According to the already mentioned charity law, the fund has the right to use 20% of inappropriate donations for its administrative needs. True, I have never met a single case where a fund was punished for violating this rule, but it is considered decent to abide by it, although this rule is simply enough to get around. For example, besides administrative expenses there are also program expenses, that is, expenses for charity programs of the fund. Accordingly, any person working in the fund can be registered not as administrative staff, but as an employee of some new program. And since these programs are not regulated in any way, there is nothing stopping the fund from introducing as many programs as he wants, and appointing any employee as the head of any program. This is a very simple way to enter any salary in 80%, and not in 20% of non-targeted cathedrals. In this case, the donor is not necessary to introduce this program. There is one successful foundation, I will not name it, they have each ward designated as a separate program, only the content of this program is not on the site. It is written, for example, “program number 471”, and what program 471 consists of, for which a person donates, is completely incomprehensible.
There should be an offer on the website of any fund, that is, a document that is signed not by signature, but by action, and when you perform any action, then you have agreed to this agreement. Anything is written in these offers, and this offer is the only document that somehow defines the nature of the money that comes to the fund's account via the Internet. There is another example of a fund in which all donations in the offer are recorded as donations to a single program, formulated in an extremely abstract way. And so this fund spends up to 50% of the funds received on itself.
How does this circuit work? She works on the emotional manipulation of the donor. They say to him: “Donate a hundred rubles, they will save many who are in need. Please sign up for regular donations, then we can plan our expenses. Look, how many needy are we helping. ” And all further steps of the foundation are already left to the conscience of its management.
Honest funds happen
Oddly enough, there are honest funds in the world. In this regard, I have a reputation as almost a fanatic, it happened rather by accident. Просто мы, когда начинали фонд «Предание», по неофитскому задору решили, что будем полностью прозрачными. Мы не думали, что это будет так сложно, что это так затянется, что фонд так вырастет. Мы решили, что будем публиковать абсолютно все входящие и исходящие платежи, не будем ничего обобщать, не будем ни о чем умалчивать, с этих установок мы и начали работать. И с тех пор мы про массовые пожертвования публикуем на сайте абсолютно всё, все входящие и исходящие движения денег у нас на сайте автоматически отображаются. И даже все свои зарплаты мы, как дураки, публикуем на сайте.
Итак, если вы собрались пожертвовать в какой-либо фонд, что может служить гарантией его честности?
Фонд не должен собирать на личные карты. Если какой-либо сотрудник фонда официально уполномочен собирать на личные карты, если фонд собирает на личные карты на сайте или в соцсетях, с этими людьми лучше дела не иметь. У фонда должна быть более или менее внятная отчетность. Отчетность – это не отчеты в Минюст и не аудиторские заключения. Отчеты в Минюст не говорят ни о чем, кроме масштабов деятельности, из них ничего понять нельзя. И аудиторские заключения также не говорят ни о чем, кроме того, что фонд не нарушает правил бухгалтерского учета. Но для того чтобы воровать деньги, не обязательно нарушать правила бухгалтерского учета. Заплатить хорошему бухгалтеру намного проще, чем попасть за решетку из-за претензий налоговой инспекции. Так вот, я говорю об отчетности, которая должна содержать информацию о том, сколько денег пришло и куда они ушли, когда и сколько. И эти цифры должны быть между собой хоть как-то связаны. Эта отчетность должна быть прозрачна, организованна и понятна.
И если фонд на вопросы про отчетность вместо цифр и документов отвечает рассказами о том, как много они сделали, какая у них сложная жизнь и тяжелая работа, это не очень хороший признак. Это обычный способ поведения сетевого мошенника в благотворительности. Они все стремятся от вопросов о цифрах и документах уходить в слезливые истории о том, как всё плохо и тяжело, и о том, какие важные проблемы они решают.
Есть еще один признак – сейчас это не столь явно, но лет пять назад это был стопроцентный признак мошеннического фонда. Если люди держатся с большим государственническим пафосом, если у них повсюду двуглавые орлы и намеки на связи в спецслужбах, вот тут точно нечисто.
Если вам говорят, что документы мы покажем, только если вы придете к нам в офис, это тоже не очень хороший признак. Фонд, заинтересованный в честности, заинтересованный в своей репутации, будет бесконечно разъяснять и бесконечно показывать документы.
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Подготовил Павел Ершов
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