What You Need to Know About Charity Scams

January 12, 2021

During times of disasters, we get to see the best in people as many come together to garner resources to assist those who are affected. However, it is also during such times that certain opportunistic people may try to take advantage of the situation and benefit themselves at the expense of others. This usually comes in the form of charity scams.

Who are charity scammers?

Scammers impersonate genuine charities or set up fake charities and ask for donations or contact you claiming to collect money after natural disasters or major events.

What do charity scammers do?

Charity scammers may ask for donations in person, on the phone, by mail, by e-mail, or through the internet.  They may ask for donations for an organization or an individual.  Their website or printed materials may even look real.

How this scam works?

Fake charities try to take advantage of your generosity and compassion for others in need. Scammers will steal your money by posing as a genuine charity. Not only do these scams cost you money, they also divert much needed donations away from legitimate charities and causes.

Fake charity approaches occur all year round and often take the form of a response to real disasters or emergencies, such as floods and cyclones. Scammers will pose as either agents of legitimate well-known charities or create their own charity name. This can include charities that conduct humanitarian missions, medical research or support disease sufferers and their families. They may also pose as individuals needing donations for health or other reasons. They may also play on your emotions by claiming to help children who are ill.

Fake charities operate in a number of different ways. You may be approached on the street or at your front door by people collecting money. Scammers may also set up fake websites which look similar to those operated by real charities. Some scammers will call or email you requesting a donation.

 Warning signs

  • You have never heard of the charity before, or it is well-known but you suspect the website, email or letter may be fake. A fake website may look almost identical to a legitimate charity site, changing only the details of where to send donations.
  • The person collecting donations on behalf of the charity does not have any identification. Remember, even if they do have identification, it could be forged or meaningless.
  • You are put under pressure or made to feel guilty or selfish if you do not want to donate.
  • You are asked to provide a cash donation as they do not accept cheques or other mediums or payment. Or, they want the cheque to be made out to them rather than to the charity.
  • You are not given a receipt. Or, they give you a receipt that does not have the charity’s details on it.
  • Pressure to give right now. A legitimate charity will welcome your donation whenever you choose to make it.

How to protect yourself

  • Approach charity organisations directly to make a donation or offer support.
  • Check the organisation’s name and look them up. Check the website address to make sure it is the same as what you searched for.
  • Legitimate charities are registered.
  • Never send money or give personal information, credit card details or online account details to anyone you do not know or trust.
  • If you are approached by a street collector, ask to see their identification. If you have any doubts about who they are, do not pay.
  • If you are approached in person, ask the collector for details about the charity such as its full name, address and how the proceeds will be used. If they become defensive and cannot answer your questions, close the door.
  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer or international funds transfer. It is rare to recover money sent this way.

Consumer tip – Keep scammers’ tricks in mind

  • Do not let anyone rush you into making a donation. That is something scammers do.
  • Some scammers try to trick you into paying them by thanking you for a donation that you never made.
  • Some scammers use names that sound a lot like the names of real charities. This is one reason it important to do some research before giving.
  • Scammers make lots of vague and sentimental claims but give no specifics about how your donation will be used.
  • Bogus organizations may claim that your donation is tax-deductible when it is not.

Do you think that you have been scammed?

If yes, contact the Consumer Council of Fiji on our toll-free number 155 or lodge a complaint using the Consumer Council of Fiji mobile app.