By Paul Johnson
Australians have raised millions for victims, both human and animal, of the bushfires that have devastated much of the country’s south-eastern states but there are now warnings that scammers are targeting those who are giving all they can to charity.
- Victoria’s Emergency Services Minister calls for people to donate only through official channels
- The ACCC has received 86 reports of scams related to the bushfire tragedy since September 2019
- Scammers are impersonating charities and people affected by the bushfires
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) told the ABC they had received 86 reports of bushfire-related scams since September of 2019, including 20 calls to the scams hotline on Tuesday.
The rise in reported scams comes as authorities have begun to ask people to donate cash rather than goods, as a surplus has built up and is causing distribution issues.
The scams reported include:
- People impersonating relatives of victims and requesting money via text messages or phone calls
- Calls or websites impersonating charities and crowdfunding pages impersonating charities
- People doorknocking, saying they or loved ones have been impacted by the bushfires
The ACCC also called on people to protect themselves when making donations by verifying the legitimacy of fundraisers, particularly by checking their terms and conditions to make sure they are an established charity and to ensure that charities are registered by searching the Australia Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
The news came as Victoria’s Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville let loose on those who were taking advantage of kind-hearted Australians.
Speaking at a press conference, Ms Neville took aim at those committing fraud to get ahead as some of the worst society has to offer.
“We’ve heard that there are some fake charities out there and all I can say is this is the lowest of the low in terms of behaviour,” Ms Neville said.
“We want to make sure they can’t get away with these sort of scams.”
How to protect yourself from scams:
- Do not donate via fundraising pages that do not verify the legitimacy of the fundraiser
- 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
- Check a charity is registered by searching the Australia Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Charity Register
Ms Neville then elaborated on the type of scams she has been made aware of, including cases of doorknocking and impersonating victims.
“People are being rung by people that are either impersonating bushfire victims or pretending to act on behalf of bushfire victims.
“Because people want to do so much, they are contributing towards what are scams and fakes, including some doorknocking scams.”
Ms Neville recommended that the safest way to donate in her state is to go through the official Victorian bushfire appeal.
“This is money that will go directly back to families, 100 per cent of it back to families,” she added.