Beware bogus bushfire appeals – scammers also appeal to your generous side

16 January 2013

SCAMwatch is urging consumers considering donating to help those affected by the summer bushfires to make sure that their money goes to a legitimate charity, cause or appeal.

Scammers have been known to take advantage of people’s generosity in the aftermath of disastrous events, including bushfires such as the devastating Victorian bushfires that struck in 2009.

Not only do these scams cost people money, they also divert much needed donations away from legitimate causes.

If you are considering making a donation to a bushfire appeal, donate wisely by thoroughly checking that you are donating to a legitimate organisation. Don’t let scammers appeal to your generous side.

How these scams work

  • You are approached on the street, at your doorstep, on the phone or via email by someone claiming that they are collecting on behalf of a legitimate cause or charity, or a fictitious one they have created.
  • If you are approached on the street or at home, the ‘collector’ may not have any identification or has forged identification, and lack a detailed knowledge about the charity they claim to represent.
  • If you are approached online, you may be directed to a website that looks much like those operated by real charities, with official looking logos and information, but which in fact is subtly different.
  • The street or doorstep ‘collector’ may only accept cash donations, or insist that any cheque be made out to them rather than the charity. They may also try to avoid providing you with a receipt, or provide one without the charity’s details on it.
  • The online scammer will insist on payment by a money transfer service. It is rare to recover any money sent this way.

Protect yourself

  • If you are considering making a donation to a charity, cause or appeal, approach the organisation directly using their official contact details to make the payment.
  • 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 and contact the organisation directly. Don’t rely on contact details provided by the person – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
  • If you approached at home or over the phone, 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.
  • If you receive an email from an unverified sender, do not click on any links or open attachments and press ‘delete’.
  • Never give money or your financial details to someone you don’t trust - it’s rare to receive money from a scammer.

If you are considering donating to a charity, check their credentials first at the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) website.

The ACNC Register contains the names of all 56,000 registered charities in Australia and links to the Australian Business Register where you can determine if a charity has Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status. It is important to note that donations to a charity without DGR are not tax deductible.

Report

See SCAMwatch’s charity scams section for more information on how these scams work and how to avoid them.

You can report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch.

For donations to a charity, you can search the ACNC register at www.acnc.gov.au/findacharity. You can also contact the ACNC on 13 ACNC (13 2262) or at advice@acnc.gov.au if you would like to report a concern about a registered charity.

More information

Stay one step ahead of scammers, follow @SCAMwatch_gov on Twitter or visit http://twitter.com/SCAMwatch_gov

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