Bushfires continue to rage in Australia, affecting thousands of communities and wildlife. This disaster has prompted various groups and individuals to donate to different organisations to help (there are more than 19,000 fundraisers created through Facebook alone, and the amount of donations pouring in is staggering). Unfortunately, with the rise of fundraisers, it provides cybercriminals with opportunities to profit off well-meaning donors. “Because everyone wants to do so much, people are contributing towards what are scams and fakes, including some door-knocking,” said Victorian Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville.
In a similar incident, a relative of Robert and Patrick Salway, who died protecting their property in Cobargo, has called out a fake fundraising page that claims to be raising funds for the family’s funeral expenses. The Salway family are not affiliated with the fake page in any way and have their own fundraising page that a family friend set up. Although the Salway family reported the incident to the police, ACCC claims that some victims opt not to report the scam, or have failed to detect that it was.
Scammers put a lot of effort in their attempts to appear legitimate to trick potential victims, but there are ways to avoid them. Try to keep your eye out for some tell-tale signs of possible fraud, and follow best practices from ACCC to make sure your donations go to legitimate parties:
- Scammers may directly contact you through cold-calls and direct-messages. Some of them will pretend to be affected by the bushfires or that their loved ones have been, and will ask for donations.
- Be wary of fake websites and social media pages.
- Do not donate via fundraising pages without verifying the legitimacy of the fundraiser. Check their website and the fundraiser’s profile.
- If the fundraiser does not guarantee your money will be returned, think twice about donating through that platform.
- Be careful about crowdfunding requests. Check the terms and conditions of these platforms to ensure you are dealing with an official organisation.
Keep yourself safe from bushfire, and likewise, protect yourself from any scams.If you or someone you know has become a victim of any bushfire fundraising scam, report it to the Scamwatch website or call 1300 795 995.