Verify charities’ credentials before giving this holiday season, public urged
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) is urging the public to do a quick online check on a charity’s credentials before donating this festive season.
ACNC Commissioner Hon Dr Gary Johns says many legitimate Australian charities have been hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis and are counting on the traditional generosity of the season.
“Unfortunately, fraudsters masquerade as charities, exploiting goodwill — scams are on the rise. It is crucial to do at least a quick online check before giving to be confident your donation is going to an organisation that genuinely does good work,” Johns said.
This advice comes as reported incidents of charity scams went up during the recent bushfires in Australia at the beginning of 2020. According to Scamwatch, reported charity scams were up nearly 70% January-July 2020, compared with the same period in 2019, driven by charity frauds linked to the bushfire crisis.
Verifying a charity
To verify a charity’s legitimacy, Australians can check with the ACNC online Charity Register. From there, one simply enters the organisation’s name to find a snapshot of its activities, its purpose, who it helps, its centres of operation, and some financial information.
If you get an unsolicited call from someone claiming to represent a charity, take note of the organisation’s name and ask to call them back. Go to ACNC’s online Charity Register and call back using the phone number published there.
Another way to avoid these scams is to avoid clicking on links from emails and social media posts. If you’re interested in a particular charity or cause, go to their website directly. This helps you avoid phishing attacks commonly used by online fraudsters.
Finally, the ACNC also recommends that would-be donors look for established and registered charities that are running verified festive season appeals.
“There are many organisations that deserve your donation this Christmas, with close to 59,000 charities on the Register. It is important to be generous, but it is as important to give with confidence. As the regulator, the ACNC is watching over the sector to maintain confidence,” he said.
Australians very ‘charitable’
According to the ACNC, the Australian people have always been very generous, even before the pandemic struck. Pre-COVID-19 ACNC data shows they gave approximately $10 billion each year from 2016-2018. earlier this year, when a bushfire ravaged at least 2,000 homes in New South Wales and Victoria, 53% of Australians were said to have donated and raised $640 million.
These figures make it all the more crucial for people to not fall for charity scams. To this end, the ACNC is hopeful that even more people will use the online Charity Register.
“There were more than 3 million searches of the Charity Register last financial year. It received more daily hits between 6 January and 15 January than it had ever had before, during the summer bushfire appeals. This shows a growing awareness of how valuable a resource the Register is for donors who would like to check the legitimacy of a charity before they make a donation,” Johns said.