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Scams surrounding natural disasters

How to identify a charity scam.

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When a natural disaster strikes, the human cost can be enormous. Despite the serious emotional, financial and physical toll these tragedies can take on victims, scams that prey on the generosity or vulnerability of people during these times sadly can and do happen. Let's take a look in more detail at how these scams operate and how you can avoid them. 

The fake charity scam 

Real, well-regulated charities provide invaluable assistance in times of crisis, and their efforts are beyond commendable. In many ways, this is what makes fake charity scams seem even worse for all concerned.

A fake charity operates in much the same way as a real charity, collecting money from those who wish to donate to a worthy cause. Unfortunately, however, a fake charity keeps the money for itself and does not give a cent to those in need.

Scamwatch has provided some helpful hints to help you avoid this kind of scam.

  •  Only work with established charities. If you have never heard of the charity before, or if you cannot find any reliable information about them online, they may not be trustworthy.
  • Always check for legitimate identification. Anyone working for a reputable charity is an official representation of that charity, and therefore should carry the necessary identification. Pay close attention to the identification when you check it, to try to make sure it is not forged. If you are in doubt, stay away.
  • Avoid anyone who puts you under pressure. Charity workers are bound by certain codes of conduct and professionalism. They should never put you under pressure or guilt trip you. If you experience this kind of "hard sell" tactic, this is a major warning sign that a scam is taking place.
  • Always check the receipt. Be 100% certain to get a receipt when you make a donation. Even if you receive a receipt, you must check to make sure that the charity's details are included on the document. If not, it could be a forgery, which in turn could be evidence of a scam.

The government grant scam

If you are directly affected by a natural disaster, you may seek a government grant to help you get your life back on track. Unfortunately, this is another area that is a fertile environment for scammers.

Scamwatch has offered more advice for those seeking government grants, to help them make sure they stay safe and secure.

  • Only accept solicited calls. You should only be receiving calls regarding grants you have applied for. Do not speak to anyone who rings you up out of the blue.
  • Do not give personal information when you receive a phone call. Only give personal information directly to the relevant government department, and confirm this by calling the department directly. 
  • Do not agree to a wire transfer. Government departments do not use wire transfers. Any mention of a wire transfer is a serious red flag.
  • Never provide any payment information over the phone. Government departments will request payment information through encrypted forms. Do not give anything out over the phone.
  • Report a suspected scam immediately. Contact your bank immediately if you feel you have been the victim of a scam, and report the scam to the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. Information in this article is current as at the date of publication.

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