Aussies are being urged to take extra care when donating money as the number of fake charities continues to increase across the country.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch, an increasing number of scammers are taking advantage of people’s generosity and compassion by impersonating real charities or setting up fake ones.
Operating in a number of different ways, the cruel masterminds have reportedly approached people on the street and called at their homes, telephoned emailed people requesting donations and have even set up fake websites which look similar to those of real charities.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said this is particularly appalling as, beyond just stealing money from unsuspecting victims, the scammers also take money intended for legitimate charities. This year alone Scamwatch have received a total of 639 reports of fake charities, with more than $320,000 in reported losses, compared to $313,563 throughout the whole of 2017.
“Fake charity approaches occur all year round and often take the form of a response to real disasters or emergencies, such as floods, cyclones, earthquakes and bushfires,” Rickard explained.
“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. We’ve also seen some recent examples of charity scammers using the current drought to rip off people. The scammers have no shame. If they’re not creating fake charities, they will impersonate real ones like the Red Cross, RSPCA, or Rural Fire Service.”
In a bid to crack down on the growing number of charity scammers, Rickard said there are a number of steps people can take to ensure their money ends up in the right hands. This can be done by checking the charities credentials on the publicly available Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission website before phoning them directly or making a donation online.
“Legitimate charities do employ door knockers and street collectors. 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,” Rickard said. “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 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.”