Fake charities are on the rise, warns ACCC

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Australians are a generous lot, even though donations to charities fell slightly to $350 per person in the year to February, according to the National Australia Bank’s Charitable Giving Index. But on the rise are reports of fake charity scams, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reports.

In Charity Fraud Awareness Week, Scamwatch says that so far in 2018 it has received 689 complaints of fake charity scams that have resulted in losses of more than $320,000. In 2017, reported losses were $313,563.

Scamwatch warns that scammers are increasingly using fake charities or impersonating real charities to take advantage of people’s generosity. They also approach people on the street (for example, posing as a monk or a collector for a specific cause) or at their front door. Some may call or email requesting donations.

“Australians are very generous, donating billions each year to thousands of different charities,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard. “Unfortunately, scammers are increasingly using people’s generosity against them by setting up fake charities to fleece them.

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

She said fake charity approaches occur all year round, but particularly at the time of disasters and emergencies.

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

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

The ACCC says people should ensure their donation is going to a legitimate charity by phoning the charity directly or making a donation via the website. They can check the charity is legitimate by looking up its credentials on the publicly available Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) website.

“Legitimate charities do employ door-knockers and street collectors,” Ms Rickard said. “But rather than just hand your money over, ask to see their identification and don’t be shy about asking questions about the charity, such as how the proceeds will be used.

“If you have any doubts about who they are, do not pay; go the charity’s legitimate website and pay through there.

“Also, avoid any arrangement with a stranger who asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency, such as Bitcoin. Legitimate charities don’t solicit donations in this way.”

Have you become more careful about which charities you support? Do you ignore doorknockers and unsolicited phone-calls?


Scammers pocket $4.3m a month, on track for a record

People aged 45 to 64 most at risk, ACCC warns.

Written by Janelle Ward


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