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Fake charity scammers on the rise, stealing hundreds of thousands

For Charity Fraud Awareness Week, Scamwatch has revealed that charities are losing out on more than $320,000 in donations due to fake charity scams

Australian’s generosity is increasingly being taken advantage of, with charities losing out on more than $320,000 in 2018 alone due to scams.

For Charity Fraud Awareness Week, Scamwatch is appealing to donors to be wary of fake charities or people impersonating real charities. In just 2018, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) received almost 690 reports of scams.

Despite the number of reports having decreased since 2015, Scamwatch has reported an increase in how much has been lost. Between 2015 and 2017, charities collectively lost out on more than $490,000 in donations to a range of fake charity scams.

ACCC Deputy Chair, Delia Rickard, said: “Australians are very generous, donating billions each year to thousands of different charities. Unfortunately, scammers are increasingly using people’s generosity against them by setting up fake charities to fleece them.”

“This is a particularly appalling scam as beyond just stealing money from unsuspecting victims, the scammers also take money meant for legitimate charities. Donations are the lifeblood that supports charities and their ability to help people in need.”

Fake charities have been operating in a number of ways, including by approaching donors on the streets and at their front doors and posing as a monk or collector for a specific cause. Scammers have set up fake websites, which look similar to those operated by the real charities, and others have called or emailed to request donations.

The scammers also take advantage of the most current social issue or natural disaster, with most appealing to a donor’s sense of compassion to trick them into donating for floods, cyclones, earthquakes or bushfires.

“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,” Rickard said.

“It’s important people are aware of these scams and take precautions to ensure their money is going to a genuine charity.”

The most common method for charity scammers was approaching donors through phone and emails, but donors have also fallen victim through in person scams, social networking and through various platforms, internet and text messages.

Charities are also at risk of cyber-attacks, with many receiving fraudulent emails, being directed to fraudulent websites, attempts by scammers to impersonate a charity online and malicious software being found on their system.

Rickard has warned donors that legitimate charities do employ door knockers and street collectors, but that they should ask to see identification or pay straight through the charities legitimate website.

“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,” Rickard said.

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