Legal

Bushfire charity scammers are trying to cash in on generosity, ACCC warns

Matthew Elmas /

Consumer and competition watchdog, the ACCC, has issued a warning to small businesses making donations to bushfire relief charities, saying it has identified scams taking advantage of well-meaning Australians.

The regulator sent an email to small businesses on its mailing list on Thursday afternoon warning of the scams and advising business owners to be careful when making donations.

“Scammers are targeting people by pretending to represent legitimate or well-known charities or fundraising organisations, or by setting up their own fake fundraising pages on social media and fundraising platforms,” the ACCC said.

It follows a warning issued by the watchdog earlier this week, alerting Australians to a range of scams that have popped up in the wake of the unprecedented natural disasters becoming an international news story.

Charitable efforts have sprung up across the country in response to the bushfire crisis in recent weeks, and small business owners are often finding themselves at the centre of fundraising efforts.

But in among the genuine initiatives, the ACCC’s Scamwatch says fraudsters are targeting everything from animal appeals to financial support for affected families.

“Following every disaster, it is natural to want to help and donate as quickly as possible,” Scamwatch said in a statement circulated yesterday.

“However, scammers also follow disasters in order to take advantage of the generosity of Australians.

“These scammers will most often pretend to be associated with well-known charities, large businesses or government departments to make them look legitimate.”

Spot a scam

The ACCC is circulating advice for business owners and individuals to help them avoid getting caught up in charity scams. In short:

  • Don’t donate via fundraising pages that don’t verify their legitimacy;
  • Treat crowdfunding efforts with caution, and check the terms and conditions of each campaign; and
  • Check the charity’s status on the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) charity register.

It stands to reason that businesses looking to get involved in their own fundraising efforts should heed this advice in setting up their own campaigns.

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany. You can contact him at [email protected].