Scammers door-knocking for bushfire funds
Scammers hoping to take advantage of the bushfire crisis have begun door-knocking homes seeking donations, the Victorian government says.
After the national consumer watchdog on Tuesday opened a dedicated line for reporting bushfire-related scams, Victorian Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville warned some current frauds involved people impersonating bushfire victims.
“Because everyone wants to do so much, people are contributing towards what are scams and fakes, including some door-knocking,” she told reporters in Bairnsdale.
Neville suggested the safest way was to donate to a registered charity or Bendigo Bank’s bushfire appeal fund endorsed by the Victorian government.
“One hundred per cent of that is going to communities,” the minister said.
“My advice is don’t give money over the phone. Do it this way, look up the website, pay online, and do it through the proper processes.”
Those believing they’ve encountered a scam can call the ACCC’s line – 1300 795 995 – or report it on the Scamwatch website, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says.
“If you think you have paid money to a scammer, please contact your bank immediately,” the ACCC said.
Donors should be wise to cold-calling, fake websites, and direct messaging, and only use crowdfunding sites that verify the legitimacy of the fundraiser and guarantee refunds if the page is later found to be fraudulent.
“If you are unsure, make your donation to an established charity instead,” a spokesman said.
The Australia Charities and not-for-profits Commission Charity Register lists all registered charities and their official websites.
Crowdfunding site GoFundMe, where more than $8 million has been raised since New Year’s Eve, said it guarantees refunds in the rare event campaign creators misuse funds.
In cases where a campaign owner doesn’t know the person they’re raising money for, GoFundMe works to ensure the money goes directly into the beneficiary’s bank account, a spokeswoman told AAP.
NSW Emergency Services David Elliot on Tuesday said the community had a right to be outraged by looters operating in his state.
“So anybody, regardless of age or mental state, who want to take advantage of their fellow citizens’ disadvantage … should expect the full force of the law,” he said,
The NSW Rural Fire Service Association was forced last week to confirm cold calls from 02 9094 2428 were made by its fundraising centre, amid rumours the calls were a scam.
Nicola Britton, GoFundMe Regional Manager, Australia said: “We support the launch of the ACCC’s scam hotline to keep generous donors safe. Before money is transferred to an individual, their personal information, including ID and banking information, must be verified. If someone is raising money for someone they don’t know, they never touch the money. Instead GoFundMe will work to ensure it goes directly into the beneficiary’s bank account.:
Should the campaign fail to meet their strict safety criteria, Britton adds, the funds will not be released. In the very rare case of misuse, donations are backed by the industry’s only guarantee. The GoFundMe Guarantee ensures donations reach the right place, or will be refunded.