January 2015: SCAMwatch is encouraging Australians who are considering donating to bushfire appeals to make sure they double check whether the appeal or its organisers are legitimate so that their generosity reaches victims, not scammers.
There are many legitimate organisations that provide much-needed assistance to those affected by the summer bushfires. Unfortunately, there are also many scammers who capitalise on tragic events as soon as they happen. Not only do these scams cost people money, they also divert much-needed donations away from legitimate causes.
Watch out – scammers will approach you using many guises to try and trick you into misplacing your generosity. SCAMwatch has received reports that social media sites are being used to seek donations purportedly to support those affected by bushfires. There are no guarantees these funds will find their way to those you intended.
The South Australian Country Fire Service also recently warned about reports received from the public who had received a knock at the door from someone claiming to represent the service and seeking to collect cash donations. The South Australian Country Fire Service advises that it does not door-knock to seek donations.
If you are considering making a donation to a bushfire appeal check that you are giving to a legitimate charity by visiting the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) register.
Don't let scammers appeal to your generous side – if you are looking to help people in need, donate freely but wisely by making sure your donation goes to a legitimate charity
How these scams work
- You are approached on the street, at your doorstep, on the phone, via email or through social media 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- If you receive a request through social media, it might look like a well-intentioned endeavour to help a worthy cause, but there are no guarantees the funds will find their way to those you intended.
- If you hand over money to the 'appeal', 'charity' or 'fundraiser', your money will go straight into the pockets of a scammer and the victims will never receive a cent.
- 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.
- Check an organisation's credentials at the ACNC website (link is external)
- 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 are 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.
If you think you've spotted a scam, report it to SCAMwatch or contact the ACCC on 1300 795 995. You should also spread the word to your friends and family to protect them.
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 or by calling 1300 795 995.
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 email@example.com if you would like to report a concern about a registered charity.
Stay one step ahead of scammers, follow @SCAMwatch_gov on Twitter or visit http://twitter.com/SCAMwatch_gov
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