ACCC and ACNC provide tips on how to donate safely this festive season

14 December 2012

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the newly established Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) are warning Australians to stay one step ahead of charity scammers and donate safely this festive season.

The ACNC commenced on 3 December and is Australia’s first independent national regulator of the not-for-profit sector. The ACNC website has a searchable register containing details of Australian registered charities and is a great place to start when considering donating to charity this festive season.

“You can check for free whether the organisation you are considering donating to is a legitimate charity. Currently all 56,000 registered charities in Australia appear on the ACNC online public Register,” ACNC Commissioner Ms Susan Pascoe AM said.

ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said the SCAMwatch website provides valuable information to consumers about how to recognise, avoid and report scams, including charity scams.

“If you are looking to give to a cause or those in need this festive season, make sure that your money goes to a legitimate charity and not to a scammer,” Ms Rickard said.

“Scammers like to take advantage of the busy and charitable nature of the festive season to slip under your radar. They will try anything to get your money, including pretending to work for a legitimate cause or charity or a fake one they created.”

“Many genuine charities appeal for your help at this time of the year with important and worthy drives for donations of money, food, clothing and children’s gifts.  Unfortunately, fraudsters are unscrupulous and do not hesitate to prey on people’s generosity,” Ms Rickard said.

Charity scams operate in several ways. You may be approached in the street or at your home by someone claiming to be collecting donations on behalf of a legitimate cause or charity, or a fictitious but authentic-sounding charity.  Charity scammers may also contact you through phone calls, fraudulent letters, spam emails or develop websites that use official-looking logos and words to make them look genuine.

“The ACCC has received hundreds of complaints this year about charity scams, with more than $90,000 reported lost in Australia. We are warning you to look out as these scams not only take your money and put a damper on your Christmas spirit, they also divert much-needed donations away from legitimate charities and causes,” Ms Rickard said.

Ms Pascoe also highlighted the damaging effect these scams have on the community and the charity sector.

“Even though legitimate charities are not to blame, the occurrence of these scams can reduce the public’s confidence and willingness to donate to charities and support worthwhile causes within the community. The good news is that there are some steps you can take to ensure your donations go to legitimate charities and benefit legitimate causes,” Ms Pascoe said.

“If you have been approached to make a donation, you can protect yourself by contacting the charity directly before giving. Don’t rely on a phone number or website address provided by the person who first called, visited or emailed you because they could be impersonating a legitimate charity,” Ms Rickard said. 

“Alarm bells should sound if the person asking for money cannot or will not give you details about the charity, such as its full name or address, or becomes defensive when you ask questions. Another telltale sign is if the collector will not give you a receipt or if the receipt they provide does not have the charity’s details on it. If you are approached out of the blue by a collector always ask to see their identification.”

“Illegitimate online collectors will insist on payment by money transfer. Where possible, avoid up-front payment via money order, wire transfer or international funds transfer. It is rare to recover money sent this way. Do not open suspicious or unsolicited emails - delete them.

Never give out your personal, credit card or online account details unless it is a trusted source.  If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately,” Ms Rickard said.

You can report scams to the ACCC by visiting www.scamwatch.gov.au or by calling 1300 795 995. Stay one step ahead of scammers by following @SCAMwatch_gov on Twitter.

To search the ACNC Register visit www.acnc.gov.au/findacharity. You can also contact the ACNC on 13 ACNC (13 2262) or at advice@acnc.gov.au if you would like to report a concern about a registered charity.

Release number: 
NR 266/12
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