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Christmas charity donation warning

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Criminals are setting up fake charities and impersonating genuine ones in a bid to get people to part with their cash.

Action Fraud, the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator have warned the public to be vigilant when making charitable donations this Christmas.

Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, found that almost £350,000 of charitable donations ended up in the pockets of criminals over the festive period last year.

It cited cases where criminals had set up fake charities, or impersonated well-known charitable organisations, to deceive victims.

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: “Charities do incredibly important work, helping those in greatest need, especially at this time of year. Unfortunately, criminals will try to abuse the generosity and goodwill of others and this can have a huge financial impact on charities and the good causes they support.

“We would encourage people not to be put off donating to charities, but instead to be vigilant. Make sure you do your research and follow our simple steps to ensure you’re giving your money to a legitimate charity. Don’t let your donations end up in the wrong hands this Christmas.”

Action Fraud reported earlier this year that it had received reports of a scam email, purporting to be from the government, asking for donations to the NHS as part of a ‘nationwide appeal in efforts against coronavirus’.

The Charity Commission has previously warned that the pandemic has created more fertile ground for fraudsters.

Helen Stephenson CBE, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said: “Christmas is always a time of generous charitable giving, and that’s to be celebrated. This year it comes as charities face immense financial strain after heroic efforts to support some of society’s most vulnerable people through the pandemic.

“This means it’s more important than ever to ensure that when we reach into our pockets, our festive contributions don’t go astray. That’s why we’re urging everyone to give with their head as well as their heart and check before they give.”

Previous research from the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator revealed that less than half of people that give to charity make checks before donating.

Here’s how to make sure your donations go to the right place:

  • Make sure the charity is genuine before giving any of your financial information. Look for the registered charity number on the charity’s website. You can check the charity name and registration number at www.gov.uk/checkcharity
  • You can also check if a charity is registered with the Fundraising Regulator. All charities registered with the regulator have made a commitment to good fundraising practices.
  • If you’re approached by a collector on the street or at your door, ask to see the collector’s ID badge. You can also check whether the collector has a licence to fundraise with the local authority, or has the consent of the private site owner.
  • Don’t click on links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and phone calls that ask for your personal or financial details.
  • To donate online, type in the address of the charity website yourself rather than clicking on a link. If in any doubt, contact the charity directly about donating.
  • Be cautious when donating to an online fundraising page. Fake fundraising pages will often be badly written or have spelling mistakes. When donating to an online fundraising page, only donate to fundraising pages created by someone you know and trust.

If you think that a fundraising appeal or collection is fake you can report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.