SCAMwatch is warning consumers wanting to contribute to the Victorian bushfire appeals to be on alert to ensure they are not taken in by scammers.
During the 2003 Canberra bushfires and the 26 December Asian tsunami, scammers took advantage of people's generosity and kindness.
Such scams involve people collecting money by pretending to be a real charity. Not only do these scams cost people money, they also divert much needed donations away from legitimate charities and causes.
The scammers can approach people in the street, by knocking on the door, telephoning, sending spam emails or creating false charity sites on the internet.
Warning signs for charity scams
The charity is not known, or is well-known but the scam is operating via a fake website or letters and emails.
A collector makes a face-to-face approach but does not have any identification. Be alert even if they do have identification; it could be forged or meaningless.
The collector tries to pressure you by making you feel guilty or selfish if you don’t want to give them money to elicit a 'donation'.
The collector cannot or will not give you details about the charity, such as its full name, address or phone number.
The collector becomes defensive over questions about what the charity does and how much of the donation gets taken up by costs.
The collector asks for cash, won't accept a cheque or asks for any cheque to be made out to them rather than to the charity. Online collectors will insist on cash money transfers.
The collector doesn’t want to provide a receipt or the receipt does not have the charity’s details on it.
How to protect yourself from charity scams
Approach charity organisations directly to make a donation or offer support. For more information about key Victorian Bushfire fundraisers visit the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.
Don’t rely on any phone number or website address given by the person who first called, visited or emailed you because they could be impersonating a legitimate charity. In the past, websites have been created that replicate all the details of reputable charities—with the exception of where the money is sent.
Never give out your personal or credit card or online account details unless you made the phone call and it is from a trusted source.
If you are approached out of the blue don’t give money. Legitimate charities are registered at the state or territory level—check with your local fair trading agency to see if they are a genuine charity and are raising money for bushfire victims.
Don't open suspicious or unsolicited emails (spam)—delete them.
Never send money, or give credit card or online account details to anyone who is not known and trusted.
Consumers who believe they have been approached by someone impersonating a legitimate charity, or by a fake charity, can report the scam to the ACCC Infocentre on 1300 302 502 or report a scam through the SCAMwatch website.
You should also be sure to warn your friends, family, colleagues and neighbours about the scammer.