UK citizens have been warned to beware of scammers when donating to charities collecting for the Australian bushfires relief effort.

The UK’s Foreign Office Minister Heather Wheeler has called for Britons to double check the fund is registered with the Australian Charities Commission. (Source Australia News 9)

In Australia the Western Australia (WA) Commissioner for Consumer Protection authority is urging people only to donate to 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.

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.