£350k wrongly donated to Christmas charity scams

Action Fraud, the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator are warning the public to remain vigilant when making charitable donations this Christmas

Figures from Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, show that almost £350,000 of charitable donations ended up in the pockets of criminals over the festive period last year.

Most fundraising appeals and collections are genuine, however criminals can set up fake charities, or even impersonate well-known charitable organisations, to deceive victims.

Action Fraud has teamed up with the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator, the independent regulator of charitable fundraising in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to help the public make sure their donations go to the right place this Christmas.

Gerald Oppenheim, chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, said: ‘Fundraising this Christmas takes on a greater importance after a tough time for so many, including charities whose public fundraising activities have been paused for much of 2020.

‘Unfortunately, there are a small number of people who may try to take advantage of your festive goodwill, and direct donations away from legitimate charities.

‘While we encourage donors to keep giving, it is essential that you remain alert and aware for any unusual activity when making a donation.

‘Be sure to carry out a few important checks before giving. This includes checking to see if the charity is registered with the Fundraising Regulator, which means they are committed to maintaining good fundraising practice.’

The Charity Commission has previously warned that the pandemic has created more fertile ground for fraudsters. 

Action Fraud reported earlier this year that it had received reports of a scam email, purporting to be from HM Government, asking for donations to the NHS as part of a ‘nationwide appeal in efforts against coronavirus’.

Previous research from the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator revealed that less than half of people that give to charity usually make checks before donating.

Action Fraud, the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator are therefore urging the public to follow some simple steps to ensure they have a fraud free Christmas this year.

How to check a charity is legitimate

  • Make sure the charity is genuine before giving any financial information. Look for the registered charity number on their website.
  • You can also check if a charity is registered with the Fundraising Regulator.
  • If you are approached by a collector on the street or at your door, ask to see the collector’s ID badge. You can also check whether the collector has a licence to fundraise with the local authority, or has the consent of the private site owner.
  • Do not click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and phone calls that ask for your personal or financial details – even if it’s in the name of a charity.
  • To donate online, type in the address of the charity website yourself rather than clicking on a link. If in any doubt, contact the charity directly about donating.
  • Be cautious when donating to an online fundraising page. Fake fundraising pages will often be badly written or have spelling mistakes. When donating to an online fundraising page, only donate to fundraising pages created by someone you know and trust.

After making these checks, if you think that a fundraising appeal or collection is fake, report it to Action Fraud online at or by calling 0300 123 2040.

 

Useful links:

Search the charity register

The Charity Commission: Safer Giving Charity Christmas Research

Zak Jakubowski |Reporter, Accountancy Daily [2019-2021]

Zak Jakubowski was a reporter at Accountancy Daily, published by ...

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