Beware possible bushfire charity scams

This announcement is for: 
Consumer
  • Charity scammers are known to target disasters to steal money from donors
  • Donors to be on the look-out for fake websites and social media pages
  • Advice to only donate to licensed charities and do an online check

As people begin opening their hearts and their wallets to donate to the victims of Perth’s current bushfire disaster, Consumer Protection is warning donors to be aware that scammers may also be on the prowl.

Those wishing to raise funds are also reminded that collecting money for a charitable purpose such as this requires a licence, or for a licensed charity to be involved.

While no scam reports have yet to be received, Consumer Protection believes it’s only a matter of time before scammers attempt to steal donations.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping says the best way to prevent being scammed, is to deal only with licensed charities to ensure that the money goes to the right cause.

“We know from past experience that heartless scammers will exploit these disastrous events to capitalise on the community’s generosity and profit out of other people’s misfortune by creating bogus charities and fundraisers online, via social media or fake websites,” Ms Chopping said.

“They may also create fake Go Fund Me pages supposedly to raise money for individual victims. Don’t respond to random emails or texts that may be from scammers impersonating established charities and contain links that take you to fake sites.

“It’s doubly cruel because, not only does it con the donor out of their money, it also denies the true cause much-needed funds for those impacted by the bushfires.”

When making donations, Consumer Protection recommends the Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund which has now been activated to accept donations for the purpose of assisting those impacted by the fires and to donate via the official website: https://appealswa.org.au/.

A quick check on the Consumer Protection and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) websites will reveal if the fundraising body holds a licence or is registered.

People or organisations in WA wanting to raise funds via social media or door-to-door are required to have a licence or to work with an existing licensed charity with their permission. They must show some identification and an authority from a licensed charity.

“We don’t want to dampen the enthusiasm, compassion or generosity of the community, but there needs to be protections in place especially when large amounts of money are being collected,” the Commissioner added.

Summary of advice when making bushfire donations:

•    Scammers can pretend to be legitimate well-known charities, creating their own charity names, and impersonating people negatively impacted by the bushfires.

•    Scammers in the past are cold-calling, direct messaging and creating fake websites and pages on social media to raise funds.

•    Do not donate via fundraising pages on platforms that do not verify the legitimacy of the fundraiser or that do not guarantee your money will be returned if the page is determined to be fraudulent.

•    Be careful about crowdfunding requests as these may be fake and also come from scammers. Check the terms and conditions of funding platforms and ensure you are dealing with official organisations. If you are unsure, make your donation to an established charity instead.

•    If you are donating to an established charity or not-for-profit organisation, ensure it is licensed with Consumer Protection or registered with the ACNC.

•    A list of licensed charities in WA can be found on the Consumer Protection website.

•    If you think you have paid money to a scammer, contact your bank immediately.

More information about charity donations and collections is available on the Consumer Protection website and enquiries can be made by email charities@dmirs.wa.gov.au.

Donors who believe they have lost money to a fake charity scam, should email WA ScamNet for assistance at consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au

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Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / alan.hynd@dmirs.wa.gov.au  

Consumer Protection
Media release
05 Feb 2021

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