Figures from Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, show that almost £350,000 of charitable donations ended up in the pockets of criminals over the festive period last year.
The vast majority of fundraising appeals and collections are genuine, however criminals can set up fake charities, or even impersonate well-known charitable organisations, to deceive victims.
Action Fraud has teamed up with the Charity Commission, the regulator and registrars of charities, and the Fundraising Regulator, the independent regulator of charitable fundraising in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to help the public make sure their donations go to the right place this Christmas.
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said:
“Charities do incredibly important work, helping those in greatest need, especially at this time of year. Unfortunately, criminals will try to abuse the generosity and goodwill of others and this can have a huge financial impact on charities and the good causes they support.
“We would encourage people not to be put off donating to charities, but instead to be vigilant. Make sure you do your research and follow our simple steps to ensure you’re giving your money to a legitimate charity. Don’t let your donations end up in the wrong hands this Christmas.”
The Charity Commission has previously warned that the pandemic has created more fertile ground for fraudsters.
Action Fraud reported earlier this year that it had received reports of a scam email, purporting to be from HM Government, asking for donations to the NHS as part of a ‘nationwide appeal in efforts against coronavirus’.
Helen Stephenson CBE, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, said:
“Christmas is always a time of generous charitable giving, and that’s to be celebrated. This year it comes as charities face immense financial strain after heroic efforts to support some of society’s most vulnerable people through the pandemic.
“This means it’s more important than ever to ensure that when we reach into our pockets, our festive contributions don’t go astray. That’s why we’re urging everyone to give with their head as well as their heart and check before they give.”
Gerald Oppenheim, Chief Executive of the Fundraising Regulator, said:
“Fundraising this Christmas takes on a greater importance after a tough time for so many, including charities whose public fundraising activities have been paused for much of 2020. Unfortunately, there are a small number of people who may try to take advantage of your festive goodwill, and direct donations away from legitimate charities.
“Whilst we encourage donors to keep giving, it is essential that you remain alert and aware for any unusual activity when making a donation. Be sure to carry out a few important checks before giving. This includes checking to see if the charity is registered with the Fundraising Regulator, which means they are committed to maintaining good fundraising practice.”
Previous research from the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator revealed that less than half of people that give to charity usually make checks before donating.
Action Fraud, the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator are therefore urging the public to follow some simple steps to ensure they have a #FraudFreeXmas this year.
Take the following steps to make sure your donations go to the right place:
- make sure the charity is genuine before giving any financial information. Look for the registered charity number on their website. You can check the charity name and registration number at www.gov.uk/checkcharity
- you can also check if a charity is registered with the Fundraising Regulator. All charities registered here have made a commitment to good fundraising practice
- if you’re approached by a collector on the street or at your door, ask to see the collector’s ID badge. You can also check whether the collector has a licence to fundraise with the local authority, or has the consent of the private site owner
- don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and phone calls that ask for your personal or financial details – even if it’s in the name of a charity
- to donate online, type in the address of the charity website yourself rather than clicking on a link. If in any doubt, contact the charity directly about donating
- be cautious when donating to an online fundraising page. Fake fundraising pages will often be badly written or have spelling mistakes. When donating to an online fundraising page, only donate to fundraising pages created by someone you know and trust
After making these checks, if you think that a fundraising appeal or collection is fake, report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.