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Charity donation fraud

Charity donation fraud is when fake charities play on your sympathy by asking you to make a donation to a worthy cause.

Charity donation frauds ask you to make a donation to a group of people or a particular cause. In many cases, the donation request is linked to a high-profile event, such as an earthquake.

Either the charity that the fraudster has asked you to donate to doesn’t exist, or they are misusing the name of a genuine, often well-known, charity and pocketing your money.

If you donate through a website, the fraudsters may record your credit or bank account details and use them to make purchases through your account.

If you’re asked to call a phone number, it could be a premium rate number. This means the fraudsters will pocket even more of your money on top of your donation.

If you’re asked to donate clothing or household items, the fraudsters will sell them on and keep the money rather than giving them to people in need.

Are you a victim of charity donation fraud?

You may be a victim of charity donation fraud if:

  • You’ve received an email asking you to donate to a charity. The email refers you to a website or phone number you can use to make a payment by credit or debit card.
  • Someone has approached you in a public place or called at your front door asking you to put money in a collection box.
  • A collector has dropped an envelope through your door asking you to put money in it and has come back to collect it.
  • A collector has left a bag at your home asking you to fill it with clothes, toys or other household items for poor people, often overseas. Again, they have returned to collect your bag of donated items.

What should you do if you’ve been a victim of charity donation fraud?

  • Report charity donation fraud to the Charity Commission
  • If the fraud is in the name of a genuine charity, let the charity know.

Protect yourself against charity donation fraud

Genuine charities and fraudsters often use the same methods to ask for donations. So, you need to be sure that a fraud has actually taken place. Here are some signs to look for:

  • Genuine charities are registered with the Charity Commission and print their registration details on all documentation, collection bags, envelopes etc. Check these details exist and also contact the Charity Commission to confirm they are authentic. You can call them on their helpline 0845 300 0218 or by visiting charity-commission.gov.uk, where they have an online charity register.
  • As well as identity documents, people collecting money for a genuine charity must carry documents from the charity confirming they are collecting legitimately. Ask to see these documents and check the details.
  • If the collection is for a charity you know is genuine, check the collection is authorised by asking the charity directly, using contact details from the phone book or a website that you know is genuine.
  • Contact your local authority or police station to check whether the collector has been given a licence to collect.
  • Watch out for poor grammar and spelling in emails and other documents, including collection envelopes.
  • Send your donation to the charity directly. This may mean going to a little more trouble, but at least you can be sure your donation will get to where it’s intended.

If fraud has been committed, report it to Action Fraud.