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‘Tis the season to be charitable but beware of Christmas donation scams

Candice EvansGeraldton Guardian
Christmas is a time when many people want to give back to their community with a donation to charity, but it is important to ensure your chosen cause is a legitimate one.
Camera IconChristmas is a time when many people want to give back to their community with a donation to charity, but it is important to ensure your chosen cause is a legitimate one. Credit: Natalia Gdovskaia / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm

Christmas is a time when many people want to give back to their community with a donation to charity, but before opening your own wallet it is important to ensure your chosen cause is a legitimate one.

So far this year, there have been nearly 800 reports and more than $172,000 in losses across Australia to scammers posing as charitable organisations, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s ScamWatch service.

You might be approached to donate with a knock on the door, in a shopping centre, over the phone or online, but the rules are the same — any organisation collecting money or goods from the public for a charitable purpose must be licensed under the Charitable Collections Act, administered by Consumer Protection.

You can check that a charity or not-for-profit organisation is licensed to collect funds from the WA public by referring to the licensed charity register on our website. The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission also maintains a public register that lists the official website and contact details for all registered charities in Australia.

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Scammers may seek to target victims via unsolicited emails, text messages and social media posts, so we would urge consumers to avoid clicking on any links received in these ways. Instead, it is safer to find the charity’s official website via a search engine or on the charity register and make a donation using a secure payment method, rather than providing credit card information over the phone.

Face-to-face collectors must have an identity badge or document naming the charity and WA licence number, and they need to issue a receipt containing that information. Also ensure that any cash collection boxes are securely sealed before putting any money directly into the box yourself.

Conversely, if you are looking to raise money for others, you’ll need to ask an established charity for a ‘licence loan’ (authority to fundraise under their licence) as licences cannot be awarded to individuals.

Unlicensed charity collections can be reported to Consumer Protection via our website at consumerprotection.wa.gov.au, or for further information call 6552 9364, or email: charities@dmirs.wa.gov.au

Candice Evans is senior regional officer for Consumer Protection in the Mid West and Murchison.

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