Action Fraud, along with the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator, has warned that cyber criminals will certainly make attempts to impersonate well-known UK charities online to fool the public into transferring donation money to their accounts during the festive period.
Action Fraud, which is run by the City of London Police as the national fraud and cybercrime reporting service, said that during the festive season last year, almost £350,000 of charitable donations ended up in the pockets of criminals who made fundraising appeals online in the name of well-known charities.
During the upcoming festive season, it is, therefore, very likely that cyber criminals and fraudsters will set up fake charities, or even impersonate well-known charitable organisations, to deceive victims. Therefore, the public should take all necessary precautions to save themselves from fraudulent activities when making donations online.
"Charities do incredibly important work, helping those in greatest need, especially at this time of year. Unfortunately, criminals will try to abuse the generosity and goodwill of others and this can have a huge financial impact on charities and the good causes they support," said Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud.
"We would encourage people not to be put off donating to charities, but instead to be vigilant. Make sure you do your research and follow our simple steps to ensure you’re giving your money to a legitimate charity. Don’t let your donations end up in the wrong hands this Christmas."
Action Fraud, the Charity Commission, and the Fundraising Regulator have listed out a number of guidelines that Internet users should follow when making online donations to well-known charities. These are as follows:
1. Verify the genuineness of a charity by cross-checking the registered charity number at www.gov.uk/checkcharity.
2. Check if a charity is registered with the Fundraising Regulator. All charities registered here have made a commitment to good fundraising practice.
3. Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and phone calls that ask for your personal or financial details – even if it’s in the name of a charity.
4. To donate online, type in the address of the charity website yourself rather than clicking on a link. If in any doubt, contact the charity directly about donating.
5. Be cautious when donating to an online fundraising page. Fake fundraising pages will often be badly written or have spelling mistakes. When donating to an online fundraising page, only donate to fundraising pages created by someone you know and trust.
"Fundraising this Christmas takes on greater importance after a tough time for so many, including charities whose public fundraising activities have been paused for much of 2020. Unfortunately, there are a small number of people who may try to take advantage of your festive goodwill, and direct donations away from legitimate charities.
"Whilst we encourage donors to keep giving, it is essential that you remain alert and aware of any unusual activity when making a donation. Be sure to carry out a few important checks before giving. This includes checking to see if the charity is registered with the Fundraising Regulator, which means they are committed to maintaining good fundraising practice," said Gerald Oppenheim, Chief Executive of the Fundraising Regulator.