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Fake charities use social media as scamming platform of choice

12 March 2020 at 8:29 am
Maggie Coggan
The amount of money stolen by charity scammers has doubled from 2018 to 2019 

Maggie Coggan | 12 March 2020 at 8:29 am


Fake charities use social media as scamming platform of choice
12 March 2020 at 8:29 am

The amount of money stolen by charity scammers has doubled from 2018 to 2019 

Generous Aussies are being warned to watch who they give to on social media after new data revealed the number of social media scams leapt from 14 per cent of all charity scams in 2019 to over 40 per cent in January 2020. 

Data from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), found that the amount of money lost for all of 2019 via social media charity scams was around $2,000 less than the single month of January 2020

The ACCC data also showed that from 2018 to 2019, the amount of money stolen by charity scammers doubled from $211,000 in 2018, to $411,000. Queensland was the worst affected state with nearly $150,000 rorted by thieves.   

Females were more likely to get scammed than males, and 55 to 64 year olds were the age group most vulnerable to scamming. 

Peter Hills-Jones, the CEO of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, told Pro Bono News that the scale of charity scams in January was reflective of the large number of donations coming through for the bushfire relief effort. 

“This money was meant to help real people in real need, but instead it’s being siphoned off by heartless criminals,” he said. 

Research by the Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA) released earlier in the year found that for 66 per cent of people who donated via Facebook during this year’s fire season, it was the first time they had used the platform to give money.

FIA CEO Katherine Raskob told Pro Bono News that the rise in popularity of social media fundraisers had attracted more and more scammers.

“They are popular for scammers wanting to take advantage, which is incredibly frustrating and unfortunate,” Raskob said.  

“The ACCC circulates advice for Australians on how to avoid these [scams] and rightly, should continue to keep a keen eye on this activity to help protect all of us.”

In early January, the ACCC’s Scamwatch issued a warning to donors around scammers taking advantage of public generosity.   

“Following every disaster it is natural to want to help and donate as quickly as possible. However, scammers also follow disasters in order to take advantage of the generosity of Australians,” Scamwatch said. 

The group said scammers will most often pretend to be associated with well-known charities, large businesses or government departments to make themselves look legitimate. 

Raskob added that anyone wanting to donate via social media should verify the pages and causes to check they are legitimate, and to steer clear of unfamiliar organisations. 

“For donations to charities, we always encourage people to check the charity on the ACNC website and if you are concerned, go straight to the charity’s website to donate rather than through suspect pages on social media platforms,” she said.

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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