Ukraine donation scams: What you need to know

Posted: 28 February 2022 12:41 pm
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Here's how to protect yourself from cybercriminals and scam artists when donating to Ukrainians in need.

While many of us are looking for ways to help the people of Ukraine, unfortunately scammers are in a prime position to take advantage of the fast-moving situation.

Cyber security firms Avast Plc and ESET warn they've seen a number of fake donation posts appear on social media sites including TikTok and Twitter. In some cases, scammers are pretending to be Ukrainians in urgent need of assistance.

Many of these scam accounts are requesting funds in the form of cryptocurrency. Here's an example of what that looks like:

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Source: Avast

Slovakian firm ESET has also warned people away from posts asking people to support the cause by purchasing "Ukraine Coins".

How to avoid getting scammed

While some Ukrainians may legitimately be reaching out for support on social forums, unfortunately it's very difficult to determine what's real and what's not.

Instead of sending money to individuals, Avast advises donating through a trusted and officially recognised charity organisation.

Australia's government Scamwatch agency has also previously warned of scams related to other crises, including the Australian bushfires in 2020, while ASIC last year alerted of a sharp spike in cryptocurrency scams.

Here's what Scamwatch and other security firms advise:

  • Avoid sending money to any individual directly, especially in the form of cryptocurrency, wire transfer or money order.
  • Donate through a charity organisation that is registered with a government body or trusted charity register.
  • If in doubt, check the organisation is registered with Australia's ACNC (Australian charities) or overseas government registers.
  • Make sure any online donations are via a secure service by looking for the padlock symbol and https:// in the URL.
  • If approached by a charity collector in the street, ask for details about the charity including the name, website and how the funds will be used.
  • If donating over the phone, make sure you call the official number for the charity or organisation.
  • Double check you're on the correct website of the organisation before sending money as some scam sites closely imitate official charities.

What to do if you think you have been scammed

  • Contact your bank immediately. It 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 family and friends. Let them know about the scam so that they can avoid it.
  • Report the scam. The ACCC's Scamwatch has a dedicated page where people can report scams of any kind and get more information about how to get assistance.

For more information on how you can support and for a list of vetted charity organisations, visit our guide on how Australians can help Ukrainians.

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