Scamwatch: charity fraud

Criminals can use disaster appeals to con people out of money.

Hurricane, earthquake, disaster survival kit.

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles on the scams they use to trick you out of your hard-earned cash.

This week, we take a closer look at how unscrupulous fraudsters take advantage of natural disasters such as the earthquake in Nepal to con the kindhearted people keen to make a donation.

How does it work?

When countries or regions are hit by devastating natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes, charities often appeal for extra donations to help them to provide vital aid to those affected.

But beware: while most of these disaster funds are totally legitimate, some are fake appeals set up by criminals looking to cash in on your willingness to give to alleviate the suffering of others.

The most common type of disaster appeal scam involves fraudsters setting up a fake charity website and then sending out emails requesting donations.

How can I avoid being caught out?

If you want to support a particular cause, it is sensible to type the charity's address into your browser rather than just clicking on a link 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.

Remember too to 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 think there is any way your bank account or personal details could have been compromised, the first thing to do is inform your bank or card provider.

Then report the scam to Action Fraud, which you can contact on 0300 123 2040.

You can also report fake charities to the Charity Commission on 0845 300 0218.

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