Australian consumer watchdog has warned that scammers are collecting money posing as victims of Australian bushfires or charities claiming to be helping the victims.
Recently, a scammer set up an online fundraising campaign posing as a relative of a father and son who died on the NSW South Coast on December 30 trying to defend their property against a bushfire. Started on the website Go Get Funding using the name of a relative and pictures of the dead father and son, the campaign was soon reported and shut down but by then the scammer had already collected nearly $4,000 from 60 people.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has received 47 reports of bushfire related scams since September last year but it said the actual number was likely higher because people did not realise they had been targeted.
Scammers are using a variety of methods to solicit fraudulent donations, according to the consumer watchdog. These include crowdfunding pages that impersonate legitimate charities, cold calling and text messages posing as a charity asking for donations and pretending to be a victim of the fires.
If you wish to make a donation towards those affected by the bushfires, Australian consumer watchdog asks you to protect yourself with the following information:
Scammers are pretending to be legitimate well-known charities, creating their own charity names, and impersonating people negatively impacted by the bushfires.
Scammers are cold-calling, direct messaging and creating fake websites and pages on social media to raise funds.
Do not donate via fundraising pages on platforms that do not verify the legitimacy of the fundraiser or that do not guarantee your money will be returned if the page is determined to be fraudulent.
Be careful about crowdfunding requests as these may be fake and also come from scammers. Check the terms and conditions of funding platforms and ensure you are dealing with official organisations. If you are unsure, make your donation to an established charity instead.
If you are donating to an established charity or not-for-profit organisation, ensure it is registered and that you are on its official website by searching the Australia Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Charity Register.
If you think you have paid money to a scammer, please contact your bank immediately.
You can find more information or report a scam on this Australian government website.