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Fake charity scams soar in times of crisis

17 August 2020 at 6:05 pm
Maggie Coggan
New figures show charity scams are up nearly 70 per cent since 2019

Maggie Coggan | 17 August 2020 at 6:05 pm


Fake charity scams soar in times of crisis
17 August 2020 at 6:05 pm

New figures show charity scams are up nearly 70 per cent since 2019

The head of the Australian charities commission says a sharp increase in charity scams since 2019 is “concerning”, with new data revealing over 1,000 charity scam reports since the start of the year. 

The latest Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) data, released to mark the start of Scams Awareness Week, found the number of charity scams had risen nearly 70 per cent since 2019. 

The increase was predominantly driven by charity frauds linked to the summer bushfire crisis. The ACCC’s Scamwatch received 1,081 reports of charity scams from 1 January to 31 July 2020, with losses of over $138,000, compared with 646 reports in the same time period with losses of over $277,000. 

The higher losses in 2019 were due to a few large individual losses. 

Dr Gary Johns, the head of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, said the increase was both concerning and disappointing. 

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

Scammers were found to be impersonating well-known charities or creating their own charity names, and using cold-calling, direct messaging and fake websites to raise money.

An ACNC spokesperson told Pro Bono News that it was important for donors to check if a charity was legitimate before donating.  

“Check a charity’s website to ensure they are conducting a genuine appeal. Be suspicious of conflicting or inaccurate details, unsolicited emails or door-knockers who don’t have ID,” the spokesperson said. 

“[Donors] can also check the ACNC Charity Register to verify a charity is legitimate.”

They also said that charities needed to play their part by making sure there were legitimate ways to accept donations via official websites or social media channels. 

“If they [charities] are being impersonated, they should report that activity to any platform the fake appeals are appearing on, to Scamwatch, and to any financial institutions involved,” the spokesperson said. 

For a full list of known charity scams, and more information on how to stay safe from scammers, visit the Scamwatch website here. 

Trying to protect your charity from scammers? Here’s what the ACNC says you should do:

  • Have a clear point of contact on your website, promotional material, and social media channels.
  • Register with the ACNC so that donors can verify you’re legitimate on the ACNC website.
  • Avoid typos and try to have a consistent tone in your communications.
  • Keep an eye out – scammers may be running fraudulent campaigns under your name.
  • Report scams to Scamwatch, any crowdfunding sites and social media as soon as you see it.
  • List legitimate ways to accept donations on official websites or social media channels.


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

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

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