People who want to donate money to help thousands of people affected by the disaster in Tonga are being urged to first check the official Charity Register to make sure their donation goes to a real charity.

Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commissioner Dr Gary Johns said scams are common following natural disasters, with some fraudsters pretending to collect donations to help disaster survivors when they really intend to keep the money for themselves.

“The scale of disaster in Tonga is massive, with around 80 per cent of the population impacted, losing their homes and everything they own. Sadly, there are reports of fatalities and injuries too. Many Australians, especially those with links to Tonga and Pacific Island communities, will want to help if they can,” Dr Johns said.

“Unfortunately, we know from previous disasters like the major Australian bushfires that scammers will try to take advantage of that generosity. At the ACNC, we want people to have confidence in Australian charities, so we continue to put the message out that it is very important to check the Register before you donate.”

Dr Johns said it is quick and easy to check the ACNC Charity Register. “Just type in the name of an organisation and you can see if it is a real, registered charity. You can check its contact details, the kind of programs it runs and who it helps – then you can be confident your money is going to a registered charity that deserves your support, and will use your money to help the people you truly want to help.”

Before you make a donation the ACNC recommends you:

  • Look for established, registered charities running verified appeals.
  • Do a quick check to see if the organisation is on the Charity Register and details about its main work.
  • Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails and social media posts which may take you to a fake, scam website. Find the charity’s website in a search engine or on the Charity Register.
  • Don’t give your credit card and bank account details on social media and be cautious online.
  • If you get a call claiming to be from a charity, say you’ll call back. Search the Charity Register and call back on the number shown there.