Scamwatch: charity fraud warning

Scamwatch: charity fraud warning
Scamwatch: charity fraud warning

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, we explain why you need to watch out for fake charity appeals that appear on social media or in your email inbox.

How does it work?

The Charity Commission has warned companies and individuals to be wary of fraudulent donation appeals advertised in social media posts or spam emails.

The dodgy appeals are designed to appear to come from legitimate charities, and are often linked to current events, such as the refugee crisis.

But the kind-hearted recipients who respond to the appeals can end up losing a lot more than they pledge.

In one recent case, emails purporting to be from Migrant Helpline - a genuine charity supporting migrants - included a link containing malware designed to steal victims' bank details.

Criminals are also known to have used social media to trick Britons into donating to a fake animal welfare appeal.

"We are telling the public to be aware of fake emails from fake charities, especially those using general terms like 'we're donating money on behalf of migrants'," a spokesman for the Charity Commission told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"We've noticed that whenever there is a spike in interest in an issue then unfortunately the criminals will try and manipulate that for their own end."

How can I avoid being caught out?

Charities rely on donations to help people in desperate need. But if you want to support a cause, it is better to type the charity's address into your browser than to click on a link in an email that could be from fraudsters.

Before inputting your card or account details, you should also check that the charity's website is secure.

Look out for an address starting https rather than http and for the padlock security symbol.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

It is vital to contact your bank or card provider as soon as possible if you suspect you may have given fraudsters access to your account details.

If you clicked on a potentially dodgy link, you should also conduct a malware check using an online virus scanner such as the Microsoft Safety Scanner.

Then report the fake charities to the Charity Commission on 0845 300 0218, and to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.