Scammers using name of local food cupboard to get donations

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Someone is using a local food cupboard as a front to try and steal your money.

The Southwest Ecumenical Ministry, known as SWEM, is an emergency food pantry serving 11 zip codes in and around Rochester.

“There are a lot of people out there that need food… they may need it every month, they may just need it once when something’s happened, and they couldn’t make ends meet. It could be anything, and they just need a little help, and so they call us,” explains Linda M. Stundtner, the SWEM office manager.

As you can imagine, during the pandemic, SWEM was called upon more often than usual. That’s why some folks who live in the 19th Ward were more than willing to help when someone showed up at their door looking for money to help support it.

“Someone had come to her house, a young man, and was soliciting money for SWEM, and she knew of us and wanted to donate,” Stundtner said of a phone call she got from a woman who followed up with the non-profit. "She talked to her neighbors, same thing. Some slammed the door, some went ahead and donated, and now feel foolish after finding out it’s a scam.”

SWEM has no idea how much the well-dressed man who appeared to be in his 50s collected using its good name, but the message is simple.

"We do not ask for money door-to-door, and I don’t personally know any other food cupboards or nonprofits that do it like that,” Stundtner said.

If someone comes knocking on your door looking for a cash donation and they’re demanding it right there, on the spot, shut the door and do not give. While it’s possible someone from a charity or non-profit might visit you, they should always be carrying more information, pamphlets, or brochures about the work they do and how any donations would be used. Then, you can use those documents to do your research before giving through the mail, online, or in-person at a later date.

If a business is looking to solicit you, they are required to have a peddlers permit. Ask to see it. If they don’t have it, close the door. If they do have a permit, you can take whatever information they have, then do some homework on your own before signing up for anything or giving any money.

Bottom line: don’t do business at your door with a person you don’t know. Do your research before you give or buy.

To donate directly to SWEM, you can send a check payable to SWEM to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 350 Chili Ave., Rochester, NY 14611.