Fake charities

Scammers impersonate genuine charities and ask for donations or contact you claiming to collect money for relief efforts after natural disasters.

How this scam works

Fake charities try to take advantage of your generosity and compassion for others in need. Scammers will steal your money by posing as a genuine charity. Not only do these scams cost you money, they also divert much needed donations away from legitimate charities and causes.

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. Scammers will pose as either agents of legitimate well-known charities or create their own charity name. This can include charities that conduct medical research or support disease sufferers and their families. Scammers may also play on your emotions by claiming to help children who are ill.

Fake charities operate in a number of different ways. You may be approached on the street or at your front door by people collecting money. Scammers may also set up fake websites which look similar to those operated by real charities. Some scammers will call or email you requesting a donation.

Warning signs

  • You've never heard of the charity before, or it is well-known but you suspect the website, email or letter may be fake. A fake website may look almost identical to a legitimate charity site, changing only the details of where to send donations.
  • The person collecting donations on behalf of the charity does not have any identification. Remember, even if they do have identification, it could be forged or meaningless.
  • You are put under pressure or made to feel guilty or selfish if you don’t want to donate.
  • You are asked to provide a cash donation as they don't accept cheques. Or, they want the cheque to be made out to them rather than to the charity.
  • You are not given a receipt. Or, they give you a receipt that does not have the charity’s details on it.

Protect yourself

  • Approach charity organisations directly to make a donation or offer support.
  • Check the organisation's name and look them up.
  • Legitimate charities are registered – you check an organisation’s credentials on the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) website to see if they are a genuine charity.
  • Never send money or give personal information, credit card details or online account details to anyone you don’t know or trust and never by email.
  • If you are approached by a street collector, ask to see their identification. If you have any doubts about who they are, do not pay.
  • If you are approached in person, ask the collector for details about the charity such as its full name, address and how the proceeds will be used. If they become defensive and cannot answer your questions, close the door or hang up.
  • 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. It is rare to recover money sent this way.
  • Don't open suspicious or unsolicited emails (spam) – delete them. If you click on a link or open an attachment, you may install a harmful program without knowing it.

Have you been scammed?

If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

We encourage you to report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page. This helps us to warn people about current scams, monitor trends and disrupt scams where possible. Please include details of the scam contact you received, for example, email or screenshot.

We also provide guidance on protecting yourself from scams and where to get help.

Spread the word to your friends and family to protect them.

If you have a concern about a registered charity, you can contact the ACNC on 13 2262 or email advice@acnc.gov.au.

More information

Identity theft

Identity theft is a type of fraud that involves using someone else's identity to steal money or gain other benefits.

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