Fake charity scams on the rise

How to ensure your donation is going to the right place.

Charity scams increased by almost 70% in 2020, according to figures from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ANCC). 

ANC Commissioner Dr Gary Johns said the rise in scams coincided with the bushfire and COVID-19 crises.

“Unfortunately, in times of crisis there are people who will take advantage of Australians’ generosity by impersonating charities,” Dr Johns said.

“It is crucial to do at least a quick online check before giving to be confident your donation is going to an organisation that genuinely does good work.

“It is important to be generous, but it is as important to give with confidence.”

Legitimate charities could be found on the ACNC online charity register.

“It takes a minute to check the ACNC online charity register to see if an organisation you would like to donate to is a legitimate charity,” Dr Johns said.

“You simply enter an organisation’s name into the register to find a snapshot of its activities, its purpose, who it helps, where it operates and some key financial details.”

Dr Johns said donating directly to a charity helped ensure your money would be used for its intended purpose.

“If you are donating to a charity via a third-party crowdfunding campaign, be mindful that a nominated charity is bound to use donations according to the rules set out in its governing documents,” he said.

“A third party cannot direct the way funds are used once donated to the charity. The register can provide a snapshot of the nominated charity’s purpose and main activities.”

Tips for safe giving

  • Before giving, check a charity’s credentials on the ACNC charity register.
  • Look for established and registered charities that are running verified appeals.
  • If you get a call from someone claiming to be from a charity, ask to call them back. Search the charity register and call back using the phone number published there.
  • If donating to a charity via a third-party crowdfunding campaign, be aware the charity must spend the donated funds according to own rules, not by what the third party’s claims the money will be spent on.
  • Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails and social media posts. It is safer to visit a charity’s website, to avoid clicking a link to a fake website.
  • Don’t give out your credit card and bank account details on social media and be cautious when doing so online.
  • Always ask for identification from door-to-door and street fundraising collectors.