How to avoid charity scams this Christmas

Aussies urged to check charities' credentials online before donating

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ONLINE CHECK: There are many charities that deserve your donation this Christmas. But before giving, do a quick check on the ACNC website's Charity Register.

ONLINE CHECK: There are many charities that deserve your donation this Christmas. But before giving, do a quick check on the ACNC website's Charity Register.

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Check before your donate: Top tips for safe giving this festive season

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Thinking of donating to a charity this Christmas? Australians are being urged to do a quick check on charities' credentials before giving this festive season.

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) says many legitimate Australian charities have been hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis, particularly those that relied heavily on public fundraising events, and many are counting on the traditional generosity of the season.

But ACNC Commissioner Gary Johns said unfortunately charity scams are also on the increase.

"Unfortunately, fraudsters masquerade as charities, exploiting goodwill - scams are on the rise. It is crucial to do at least a quick online check before giving to be confident your donation is going to an organisation that genuinely does good work," he said.

According to Scamwatch, reported charity scams were up nearly 70 per cent in the first half of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019, driven by charity frauds linked to the bushfire crisis.

"It takes a minute to check the ACNC online Charity Register to see if an organisation you would like to donate to is a legitimate charity."

Simply enter an organisation's name into the Register to find a snapshot of its activities, its purpose, who it helps, where it operates and some key financial details.

Dr Johns said if you are donating to a charity via a third-party crowdfunding campaign, be mindful that a nominated charity is bound to use donations according to the rules set out in its governing documents.

"A third party cannot direct the way funds are used once donated to the charity. Here, the Register can provide a snapshot of the nominated charity's purpose and main activities."

Pre-COVID 19 data from the ACNC shows Australians are generous, giving around $10million a year from 2016-2018. Just over half of Australians donated to the bushfire appeal in 2020, raising more than $640million in bushfire appeals.

Dr Johns said while is is important to be generous, it is as important to give with confidence.

"There are many organisations that deserve your donation this Christmas, with close to 59,000 charities on the Register," he said. "As the regulator, the ACNC is watching over the sector to maintain confidence."

There were more than 3 million searches of the Charity Register last financial year. It received more daily hits between 6 January and 15 January than it had ever had before, during the summer bushfire appeals.

"This shows a growing awareness of how valuable a resource the Register is for donors who would like to check the legitimacy of a charity before they make a donation," Dr Johns added.

Top tips for safe giving this Christmas

  • Before giving, check a charity's credentials on the ACNC website Charity Register acnc.gov.au/charity
  • Look for established and registered charities that are running verified Christmas/festive season appeals.
  • If you get a call from someone claiming to be from a charity, ask to call them back. Search the Charity Register and call back using the phone number published there.
  • If donating to a charity via a third-party crowdfunding campaign, be aware the charity is bound by its own rules in the way it spends donated funds, not by a third-party's promises.
  • Don't click on links in unsolicited emails and social media posts. It is safer to visit a charity's website, to avoid clicking a link to an imitation website.
  • Don't give out your credit card and bank account details on social media and be cautious when doing so online.
  • Always ask for identification from door-to-door and street fundraising collectors.

For more information go to the ACNC Charity Register

The ACNC phone line, 13 22 62, is currently open 1pm-5pm weekdays (Syd/Melb time).

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