Whilst civilians from all around the country and overseas have united to raise millions of dollars for both human and animal victims of the bushfires, there is a new threat we need to be wary of during this tragic period in Australian history. Natural disasters and times of distress give rise to fraudsters who take advantage of people’s goodwill to steal money from victims in need or from those who are willing to donate.
Last year alone, Australians collectively lost $400,000 AUD to charity scams. To battle the rising number of scams, The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has established a hotline where scams and fraudsters associated with the bushfires can be reported. The ABC has reported that ACCC has encountered 425 reports of bushfire scams have been reported to Scamwatch since September 2019. Alarmingly, this figure is expected to rise. While we encourage any donations where possible, it is critical for everyone to be better informed and aware of the dangers around them before proceeding with donations.
Common Scam Techniques
Common scamming practices include:
- Fake fundraising websites
- Door-knocking campaigns whereby fraudsters impersonate victims of the bushfire crisis or pretend to raise funds for ‘affected’ relatives
- Fake phone-calls from banks offering disaster relief funds.
Remember that the internet is not the only place fraudsters operate. As mentioned above, face-to-face and telephone communication remain as common methods of theft. Based on first-hand reports, The ACCC has found that in December alone, 41% of scams occurred via telephone. We suggest that you only call organisations you have researched to donate money and always ask door-knockers for proof of identification.
If you are uncertain, it is always safer to hang up or walk away.
Protect Yourself From Fraudsters
While goodwill is incredibly heart-warming and necessary in order for Australia to re-build, it is of utmost importance to be aware of the legitimacy of the charities you are donating to. The ACCC suggests checking the terms and conditions of a charity before proceeding with donations and ensuring the charity is registered by visiting ACNC Charity Register.
Those wishing to donate to the bushfire crisis should only do so after verifying the legitimacy of any given charity. It is recommended to avoid any crowdfunding efforts where the legitimacy of the campaign cannot be verified.
Charities You Can Trust
Various appeals have been established by registered charities and organisations. These include the Red Cross, CFA, RFS, WIRES, Salvation Army and WWF amongst others. Such charities offer the safest way to make monetary donations and are all-encompassing in their reach and ongoing volunteering efforts throughout Australia, providing assistance to both humans and wildlife.