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Australian bushfire donation scams: What you need to know before donating

Posted: 10 January 2020 10:09 am
News

Close up of a person's hands holding a tablet with a Donate button on the screen.

Fake charities, donation pages and impersonators have been trying to cash in on this crisis. Here's how to make sure your money gets to those affected by the bushfires.

While there are many legitimate fundraising campaigns that offer support to people affected by the bushfires, there are also some scams.

The ACCC and Scamwatch have reported a spike in scams around the bushfire crisis over the past few months and issued a statement warning about the risks when donating, which include:

  • Fake websites and pages on social media that claim to be raising funds for bushfire support
  • Direct messages on social media asking for your support and directing you to a specific donation page
  • Cold-calls from people pretending they are from charities and asking you for donations
  • Street fundraising, where people in public areas ask for gold coin donations and support

"Scammers are pretending to be legitimate well-known charities, creating their own charity names, and impersonating people negatively impacted by the bushfires," the ACCC statement said.

In one case, scammers set up a GoGetFunding page for victims of the bushfires on the South Coast of NSW and raised almost $4,000 from 59 people before it was reported and stopped.

GoGetFunding is a legitimate fundraising platform and the page claimed to be set up by a relative of the family, which shows how easy it could be to donate to a scam instead of a real cause.

The ACCC has recommended reading a funding platform's terms and conditions before you make a donation so that you can make sure it's a legitimate service.

"If you are unsure, make your donation to an established charity instead."

You can also check the details of a charity or not-for-profit organisation by searching on the Australia Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Charity Register.

You can also look at legitimate ways to donate in this Finder guide or consider volunteering and other non-financial options for helping people affected by the bushfires.

If you do make a donation online, make sure it is a secure service by looking for the padlock symbol and https:// at the start of the website (instead of http://). If you're donating over the phone, make sure you call the official number for the charity or organisation.

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has also warned people about scammers targeting bushfire victims by posing as tradespeople or offering to help with insurance claims. If you know people who have been affected, sharing this information will help protect them from this risk.

What to do if you think you have been scammed

  • Contact your bank straight away. They may be able to stop the transaction, freeze your account if it has been compromised or refund any fraudulent charges on your debit card or credit card.
  • Warn your family and friends. Let them know about the scam so that they can avoid it.
  • Report the scam. If you have donated through a legitimate fundraising platform, alert them to the scam. The ACCC has also set up a dedicated phone line for people to report scams around the bushfires, which you can call on 1300 795 995, or you can make a report on the Scamwatch website.

Visit the Scamwatch website for more information on where to get help if you think you have donated to a fake cause and share this information with others so that they can make sure their support goes to the people who need it.

Keep up with our Australian bushfires coverage

Resources for those impacted by the Australian bushfires

Picture: Getty Images

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