SCAM WATCH: Charity scammers are taking advantage of high profile tragedies.
SCAM WATCH: Charity scammers are taking advantage of high profile tragedies. BrianAJackson

Be aware of being fleeced by fake charities

WATCH out for fake charity scammers who approach you on the street, at your front door, on the phone, or through email and websites.

Scammers are increasingly using fake charities or impersonating real charities to take advantage of people's generosity and compassion, with losses reported to the ACCC's Scamwatch increasing steadily over the past four years.

"This is a particularly appalling scam as beyond just stealing money from unsuspecting victims, the scammers also take money meant for legitimate charities," ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said. "Donations are the lifeblood that supports charities and their ability to help people in need."

Scammers operate all year round. They often take up using fraudulent fundraising for real disasters or emergencies, such as floods, cyclones, earthquakes and bushfires.

The ACCC has seen examples of charity scammers taking advantage of high profile tragedies like the Black Saturday bushfires and following last year's Bourke Street tragedy. "We've also seen some recent examples of charity scammers using the current drought to rip off people," Ms Rickard added.

"The scammers have no shame. If they're not creating fake charities, they will impersonate real ones like the Red Cross, RSPCA, or the Rural Fire Service.

"It's important people are aware of these scams and take precautions to ensure their money is going to a genuine charity."

People can protect their donation by:

  • Asking to see a collector's identification, and don't be shy about asking questions about the charity such as how the proceeds will be used
  • By phoning the charity directly or making a donation through its website.
  • Look up the charity's credentials on the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.
  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin. Legitimate charities don't solicit donations in this way.

"Legitimate charities do employ door knockers and street collectors," Ms Rickard said. "If you have any doubts about who they are, do not pay, go the charity's legitimate website and pay through there."

For more information on charity scams, go to Charity Fraud Awareness Week. The ACCC encourages people to visit  www.scamwatch.gov.au to report scams.


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