As Australians dig deep this Christmas the nation’s charity regulator is urging donors to beware. The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission says too many of us are being fooled by scammers that pretend to be a charity.

Commissioner Dr Gary Johns says losses to fake charities have risen. “Financial losses officially reported to mid October this year are already higher than the whole of last year. Checking our online Charity Register is a simple way to make sure your money is goes to a real charity that does great work,” he said.

“As we emerge from lockdowns and head into the Christmas and festive season, naturally we want to be generous and support Australian charities, especially after all they have done to help us get through the past couple of years. We know many Australians are still doing it tough and will turn to them for a Christmas lunch, food for the pantry or a gift for their child. They truly deserve our support.

“But I urge everyone to do a quick check of our Charity Register before donating. You can instantly verify an organisation’s credentials and know your dollar is going to help the people or project you want it to help.”

According to Scamwatch $133,770 was reported lost to scammers to 17 October this year compared with $133, 214 for the whole of 2020. “We know reported scams are just the tip of the iceberg as often people don’t know they have been conned or are too embarrassed to make a report,” Dr Johns said. “The community is certainly becoming more aware of how valuable the Register is. It was searched about five million times in the past 12 months. Our latest data recorded $11.8 billion in donations to the sector, and it is critical we maintain and build on the community’s confidence in our charities.”

The ACNC is also asking donors to be attentive when giving to a third party crowd funding appeal. “Be aware that although a third party may make promises about how funds will be used, charities are bound by their own rules. We know that some confusion and disappointment arose from some 2020 bushfire appeals, as charities could not spend money in the way third party fundraisers had promised. Here again it can help to check a charity’s stated purposes on the Register.” he said.

Top tips

Before you make a donation the ACNC recommends you:

  • Do a quick check to see if the organisation is on the ACNC 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
  • Look for established, registered charities running verified appeals.
  • 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.
  • Always ask for identification from collectors at a shopping centre, on the street or at your front door.
  • Check the label on a donation bin to check if it is for charitable collection.