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Alert! Scammer targets 2 dozen Richmond non-profits

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RICHMOND, Va. -- The Better Business Bureau of Richmond has warned hundreds of non-profits in Central Virginia about a donation scam that has targeted at least two dozen non-profits. One of those targeted non-profits was SwimRVA, a group with a mission to teach every kid to swim whether they can afford lessons or not.

The organization relies on donations to stay afloat, so when an email arrived in Executive Director Adam Kennedy’s inbox right before the New Year offering a major donation he was thrilled.

“Game changer for us,” Kennedy said.

The email was sent by a man named Ken McFarlane in London who, the email claimed, was the Director of McFarlane Latter Architects.

Swim RVa

He offered to give SwimRVA a donation of $30,000.

“That for us teaches almost 1,000 kids how to swim,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he was skeptical about the whole thing, but a check for almost $40,000 arrived on January 6.

“It was like, oh I think this might be real,” Kennedy said.

But, before Kennedy cashed the check, a new email from Ken, who told him his accountant, made a mistake and gave SwimRVA $10,000 too much.

Kennedy said that’s when he knew it was a scam.

“Once they asked for money back it was a go no go, and we tore up the check at that point,” Kennedy said.

Tom Gallagher, Better Business Bureau

Tom Gallagher, Better Business Bureau

Tom Gallagher, with the Better Business Bureau, said at least two-dozen non-profits in the area received fraudulent donations from Ken, and some even tried to cash the checks. He is now warning non-profits to be aware of the scam.

“You’re not going to get a contribution for $40,000 unless you’ve been working that," Gallagher said. "These things don’t just happen."

Kennedy said there is a Ken McFarlane in London who works for an architecture firm, but the scammer stole his identity.

Kennedy contacted the real McFarlane to alert him to the scam.

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