Australians eager to help the nation of Haiti recover from the earthquake that struck on 12 January 2010 are being warned to be alert and ensure that they are not taken in by scammers.
Past experience shows that scammers will exploit people's generosity and kindness in the aftermath of disastrous events. For example, scammers used the 2009 Victorian bushfires and the 2004 December Asian tsunami as opportunities to unleash charity scams.
Such scams typically 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 collector doesn't want to provide a receipt or the receipt does not have the charity's details on it.
The collector cannot or will not give you details about the charity, such as its full name, address or phone number.
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 tries to pressure you by making you feel guilty or selfish if you don't want to give them money to elicit a 'donation'.
How to protect yourself from charity scams
Approach charity organisations directly to make a donation or offer support.
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.
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.
If a collector makes a face-to-face approach, ask to see identification.
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.
Explore SCAMwatch to find out more about fundraising and charity scams.