Executive leaders from the Boys & Girls Club of Vista are warning the community about donation scams involving their nonprofit organization. The club relies heavily on donations because its kids are from socioeconomic situations where families have an annual income of $25,000 or less. Donations help bridge the gap for membership costs and help kids who may also meet the requirements of free or reduced-cost lunches.
According to Boys & Girls Club of Vista CEO Matt Koumaras, they were made aware of the fraudulent activity about three months ago from a parent observing kids asking for money at the Walmart on University Avenue. A few weeks later, more kids appeared at Stater Bros. on North Santa Fe asking for donations for the club.
“We’ve been alerted by club parents and volunteers about this scam. We were very upset because the Boys & Girls Club of Vista never does store solicitations involving our club kids,” Koumaras said. “We alerted various grocery store managers around town but these criminals who keep moving from store to store.”
To date, Koumaras has been notified of 10 separate fraudulent activities. While two children are collecting the money, adults are also at the scene.
“The kids state they are fundraising for the Boys & Girls Club of Vista and Oceanside,” he said. “When confronted, the adult will state they are collecting money for anti-gang programs to send kids to the Boys & Girls Club. Both kids typically wear Boys & Girls Club of Vista and Oceanside T-shirts.”
Koumaras said the club is always in need of financial donations, but it would never send its club kids outside of stores or on the streets to ask for money. Private contributions for the club are made online and in person at the club’s main office in addition to its various fundraisers throughout the year including the Diamond Gala, Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament, and All in For Kids Holiday Campaign.
“We don’t know where the money raised by these young people is going, but it’s not going to Boys & Girls Clubs,” he said. “We would appreciate it if anyone reading this article could share this information with your friends, relatives, and others, so these individuals don’t take advantage of our community’s generosity and kindness and cause damage to Boys & Girls Club of Vista’s reputation.”
Koumaras said he has alerted and sent out pertinent information to the Sheriff’s Department substation in Vista on five separate occasions. He has notified the city of Vista as well as broadcasted these fraudulent actions to Boys & Girls Clubs across San Diego County as well as Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Jason Omundson, who serves as the San Diego County Sheriff’s crime prevention specialist in Vista, was also alerted.
Omundson said he wants people to use their gut instinct when approached for money outside of stores.
“If it seems like it’s not right, then research it even more, and you can always call the sheriff’s department if you feel it’s fraudulent like what’s happened with the Boys and Girls Club,” Omundson said. He added, “We’ll come out and at least identify the people that are involved and then do anything that’s appropriate from there as far as enforcement goes.”
Koumaras said if someone is approached by people pretending to work at the Boys & Girls Club, they should not provide them with donations and immediately report the situation to the store manager. Koumaras said he would also appreciate a call, as well.
“We hope to put a stop to this as soon as possible,” he said.