Before the wedding of our son we were called by an organization and we agreed to pay for a “seudas ani’im” on the day of the wedding b’zchus the chasan and kallah. We didn’t want to pay over the phone so they told us they would send a representative to pick up the payment at the wedding. Near the beginning of the seuda a distinguished looking gentleman came up to me, in full charedi garb, and told me he was the representative from the organization coming to collect the donation. I gave him the money in cash and he left. At the end of the wedding another distinguished looking haredi-looking gentleman came up to me telling me he is from the organization and he’s coming to collect. I told him he must be mistaken, because I was sure I already gave at the beginning of the seuda. He told me that was impossible, that he is the only representative. He asked me if the first person gave me a receipt, and I told him he didn’t. This man had a book of receipts, and a list of all the weddings he was going to that night, which he showed me, and told me the first man was a shakran. I told him I had no way of knowing, maybe the first one was authentic, and I wasn’t going to give him more money now since I think I already paid. The man took his phone and seemed to be making a phone call, and came back and told me that the first one was a shakran, and he said he even knew his name and where he lived, which he told to me, and said I could call him up and he would probably even admit he stole the money. He said the guy was crazy, and that he did this from time to time to get money. I didn’t give the second man any money and told him I would have to think about it. He walked away looking upset, telling me the organization had made the meal, and blessed the chasan and kallah, and now they were not receiving the donation for it. As I am thinking about it, I realize that there may even be more than one organization by that name which further complicates matter, although we only agreed to give to one of them (and I don’t know which one!). A related question is, if the first man was indeed not representing that organization, at least not the one we had in mind, and I need to send payment to the ‘real’ one, can I consider the first money I gave as ma’aser money?
I know that I need to contact the organization itself to ask if they have received the money. If they tell me they haven’t, what would you suggest I do?
If the organization didn’t receive the money, you will have to pay them.
Although you already parted with the money, if the first person was a fraud, it emerges that the organization you promised to pay didn’t receive their dues, and you will be obliged to pay them. This is both because of the neder tzedakah involved, and also because it is a form of a purchase: You “buy” a meal for poor people that they provide.
If the first character was a fraud, you are of course entitled to track him down and to get back your money by any means available to you.