6 On Your Side: Toy Drive Scams - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

6 On Your Side: Toy Drive Scams

Some people take advantage of Texomans' generosity during the holidays by getting toys from one or more of the numerous Christmas drives and then reselling the toys for cash.

Administrative Secretary for the Wichita Falls Fire Department and organizer of the annual Operation Santa Claus toy drive Cathy Bazile said she has to go on "good faith" when Texomans sign up for toys.

"You would hope people are being faithful and truthful about being in need," said Bazile. "But if there is one out of ten that is not truthful, but the other nine are, then we've done what we need to do: We've helped those in need."

The WFFD is helping about 500 additional Texoma families this year. However, the majority of the toys and bikes are distributed through other organizations.

Most of these organizations have their own vetting process through which they determine who qualifies for gifts.

The Salvation Army is just one of the charities that gets toys through Operation Santa Claus. Captain David Swyers said there is a registration week in October when families can sign up to get toys from the Salvation Army drive.

Parents need to show the child's birth certificate or social security card, the child must be under age 12, and families must also provide information about their income.

Capt. Swyers said a case worker checks into each family to make sure they qualify. The Salvation Army also works with other organizations doing toy drives to make sure no one is getting toys from multiple programs.

"We share lists between each other so that there are no duplicates, and if we find duplicates, then we'll delete them from one of our lists," said Swyers.

Both Bazile and Swyers said they realize some people may still slip through the cracks and get toys when they are not qualified. However, the organizers said the help they provide to Texoma families who truly are in need makes it all worth it.

"To see them cry with joy, to get hugs from strangers because they're overcome with emotion, to see the relief knowing that Christmas is going to be special for their child, it's all worth it," said Capt. Swyers.

President of the North Central Texas Better Business Bureau Monica Horton said stopping this scam starts with you as the donor.

"Don't be afraid to ask questions about the process, about the requirements," said Horton. "You want to make sure that the toys are being distributed to the appropriate people."

Horton said many local charities work in connection with national organizations. Many of those organizations are registered with the BBB and you can find all of their information on the BBB web site.

However, Horton said this in no way takes away from the local charities that are spreading Christmas cheer all on their own. She said to just make sure to ask the right questions before donating.

You can find a list of questions to get you started on the BBB's Standards for Charity Accountability.

Christina Myers

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