People in WA wishing to donate to bushfire victims or to those fighting the fires during the current crisis are being urged by Consumer Protection to deal only with licensed charities to avoid being scammed or to avoid any doubt that the money will get to the right cause.
Fundraisers are also reminded that to collect money for a charitable purpose such as this requires a licence, or for a licensed charity to be involved.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said, with multiple fundraising campaigns popping up, there is a risk that the money raised may fall into the wrong hands.
"Heartless scammers see disasters such as the current bushfires as an opportunity to capitalise on the community's generosity and profit out of other people's misfortune by creating fake charities online, via social media or fake websites," Mr Hillyard said.
"It's doubly cruel because, not only does it con the donor out of their money, it also denies the true cause much-needed funds for those impacted by the disaster.
"When making donations, stick with well-known and trusted charities such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army and make sure that you donate via their official websites and don't respond to random emails or texts that may be from scammers impersonating established charities and contain links that take you to fake sites.
"Being licensed means the charity's fundraising has to be audited and reported to either state or federal regulators to ensure the money is being used appropriately.
"A quick check on the Consumer Protection and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) websites will reveal if the fundraising body holds a licence or is registered."
People or organisations in WA wanting to raise funds via social media or door-to-door are required to have a licence or to work with an existing licensed charity with their permission.
They must show some identification and an authority from a licensed charity.
"We don't want to dampen the enthusiasm, compassion or generosity of the community, but there needs to be protections in place especially when large amounts of money are being collected," Mr Hillyard said.
"We have had many calls from WA people confused about where to donate and concerned about giving to the wrong charity. If in doubt you can call Consumer Protection to verify that the charity is genuine."
Summary of advice when making bushfire donations:
- Scammers are pretending to be legitimate well-known charities, creating their own charity names, and impersonating people negatively impacted by the bushfires.
- Scammers are cold-calling, direct messaging and creating fake websites and pages on social media to raise funds.
- Do not donate via fundraising pages on platforms that do not verify the legitimacy of the fundraiser or that do not guarantee your money will be returned if the page is determined to be fraudulent.
- Be careful about crowdfunding requests as these may be fake and also come from scammers. Check the terms and conditions of funding platforms and ensure you are dealing with official organisations. If you are unsure, make your donation to an established charity instead.
- If you are donating to an established charity or not-for-profit organisation, ensure it is licensed with Consumer Protection or registered with the ACNC.
- A list of licensed charities in WA can be found on the Consumer Protection website.
- If you think you have paid money to a scammer, contact your bank immediately.
Donors who believe they have lost money to a fake charity scam, should call WA ScamNet for assistance on 1300 30 40 54.
The ACCC has also set up a dedicated phone number for the public to report bushfire related scams - 1300 795 995.