Scamwatch: Christmas charity fraud

Donation box isolated on white

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, charity donation fraud, which is particularly common at this time of year.

How does it work?
Charities often run campaigns to attract more support around Christmas time.

And fraudsters take advantage of this to step up their own activities designed to exploit those keen to give to a worthy cause during the festive period.

So while most charity collections and appeals are legitimate, there are a number of scams to look out for too.

The different types of charity fraud include appeals for cash donations to non-existent charities, appeals designed to trick you into thinking they come from a genuine charity and requests for clothing and household items supposedly to help those less fortunate.

In each case, the money or belongings you donate are simply pocketed or sold on by the fraudsters behind the scam.

Those who donate through a website may also have their credit card or bank account details used for further fraud, while those who donate over the phone will often end up paying premium rate phone line charges on top.

How can I avoid being caught out?
A lot of charity scams start with an email directing you to a fake donation website.

So if you want to support a particular cause, always visit the relevant charity's website by typing the address into your browser rather than just clicking on the link suggested in an email.

Before inputting your card or account details, you should also check that the website is secure: look out for an address starting https rather than http and for the padlock security symbol.

You should also ignore all requests for donations via money transfer companies such as Western Union or MoneyGram, and be wary of appeals that involve you calling a premium rate phone line starting 09.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?
If you are taken in by Christmas charity fraud and think there is any way your financial details could have been compromised, then the first thing to do is inform your bank or card provider.

You can also report the fraud to the Charity Commission on 0845 300 0218 and to the police via Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

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