How to protect yourself from charity fraud


"Charity" and "fraud" may not be two words that you would expect to see together in a sentence.  Yet fraud costs the charity sector roughly £1.3 billion per year, according to the National Fraud Authority. In addition to robbing charities, fraudsters are scamming those who open their hearts and wallets to those in need.

What exactly is charity fraud?
Charity fraud occurs when groups or individuals ask people for donations to fake charities. Often, these "charities" use names that closely resemble those of well-known charities. It can get worse than simply handing over a few quid to a stranger, though. For example, if you have donated online, the fraudsters could have your credit card information, which they can use to make further charges to your card. charity-scam

Protecting yourself from charity fraud can be difficult, as fraudsters often use the same collection techniques as genuine, reputable charities. However, there are some ways to prevent yourself from becoming a victim.

1.    Check the Charity Commission.
Is the charity registered with the Charity Commission? Most UK charities have to be registered to operate legally, and their registration details should be printed on all official documentation, stationary and collection bags. If you're still unsure, contact the Commission directly.

2.    Check the charity's documentation.
If you recognise the name of the charity but are still unsure about how legitimate a particular collector is, ask to see the documents confirming that he or she is collecting donations legally on behalf of the charity. By law, the charity member must carry a letter which confirms this information.

Run a quick search online or check the phone book to find the charity's information. There is nothing to stop you from giving the organization a call to see if it has authorised someone to collect donations on its behalf.

3.    Look for spelling errors and typos.
A good way to root out the scam artists is by checking their official documents, such as letterheads and collection envelopes. If official stationary is poorly written or full of spelling mistakes, you can be pretty certain that you are not looking at a genuine charity or collection.

4.  Scrutinise emails.
Be careful when clicking on links within any emails that ask for donations. Be sure they actually lead to the charity's website and not a cleverly disguised fake site.

5.  Send your donation directly.
Although sending your donation directly to the charity in question can take a little longer than handing it over to someone right in front of you or donating online, it does mean that your money is more likely to go to the charity than into some scam artist's pocket.

See related: 3 easy ways to prevent credit card fraud; Charitable giving through ATMs idea presented

Published: 18 January 2012