In times of crisis many of us want to do what we can to help. The bushfires throughout Australia are a recent example of a large event prompting the wider community to chip in to a relief effort.
Unfortunately, when events like these occur there’s often a spike in instances of people looking to take advantage of our generosity by posing as charities online and soliciting donations which never make it to the cause they’re claiming to support.
Giving online? Here’s how to avoid getting scammed
Check registrant details to ensure they match the charity’s details
If you’ve come across a website collecting donations that’s using a .au domain, you can perform a WHOIS search to see the publicly available registrant information. The information in the WHOIS output can be used to cross-reference the organisation against different databases.
- If there’s an ABN or ACN in the registrant ID field, you can perform a search of the Australian Business Register and to see if the ABR record matches ( you can also use the Registrant Name as a search query)
- Search the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission (ACNC) register for the charity (although note - registering with the ACNC is voluntary so not all organisations will be on there).
Be wary of unusual payment methods
Scamwatch advises you to be wary of being asked to make payments via "money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin. Legitimate charities don’t solicit donations in this way.”
Approach organisations directly
If you’re unsure about the legitimacy of someone claiming to collect money on the behalf of a known charity or relief effort, donate directly to that charity.
What auDA is doing
auDA is currently monitoring registrations of new domains containing words related to the bushfires and the associated relief efforts. If we find something that doesn’t stack up we’ll ask the registrar to validate the registrant’s eligibility to hold the domain name (known as a warranty check).
If you spot something that doesn’t look legitimate you can report it to Scamwatch.