Fraudulent fundraising sites growing increasingly common online

Police crime watchdog Action Fraud has issued a warning urging people to be on the lookout for ‘fraudulent fundraising’ websites, after complaints were received that cyber criminals are using topical tragedies to manipulate people into making bogus charitable donations.

The news follows the devastating terror attack that hit a music concert in Manchester towards the end of May – which was reportedly followed by the emergence of numerous opportunistic fundraising pages requesting donations to support the families of victims caught in the attack.

While some appeals – such as the official JustGiving page set up by the Manchester Evening News in collaboration with the British Red Cross – were legitimate, others were controlled by fraudsters, the watchdog has said.

In response to the growing problem of what has become known as ‘fraudulent fundraising’, the Charity Commission has issued the following guidance to anyone wishing to donate money to a charity:

  • “Be more cautious about people collecting for general charitable causes, such as ‘for sick children’ – make sure you’re giving to a registered charity.
  • When approached in person by collectors, check whether they are wearing a proper ID badge and that any collection tin is sealed and undamaged.
  • If in doubt, ask the collector for more information – a genuine fundraiser should be happy to answer questions and explain more about the work of the charity.
  • Never feel under pressure by a fundraiser into making a donation immediately.”

Moore Thompson are advising our clients to think twice before donating to any unrecognised charities after a tragic event, and to always look out for the common warning signs of cyber-crime. For example, bogus websites that have been hastily set-up will often contain noticeable spelling mistakes or formatting errors.

We would also like to remind clients that it is wise to be suspicious of any unsolicited or opportunistic donation requests received via email or social media.

If in doubt about a charity, it is possible to check the Government’s register of charities here in order to determine that a charity or charitable cause is legitimate prior to making a donation.