The work carried out by charities and voluntary organisations is invaluable in helping those in need around the world.
Sadly, the charity sector can be an attractive target for criminals. Criminals may set up fake websites and social media profiles during publicised disasters in order to steal funds from generous donations. These can be tricky to spot as they are made to look like the official pages.
Charities welcome your generosity in their support and by making simple online checks before you give, you can ensure your money reaches genuine registered charities.
Key advice for donating safely online
- In Scotland, all charities must be registered, and an online register of charities is maintained by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR). Check the charity’s name and registration number.
- It’s important to make sure the charity is genuine before giving any financial information. Blurry image, logos and branding can be a sign that materials have been copied. You can check the charities’ official web pages for information. Check the web address using OSCR’s online register. Look for websites or blogs directly associated with the group or charity to gain an understanding of their aims, activities, volunteering opportunities and who runs the group. You can also find information by using Google or Yahoo; or search social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
- Be cautious of any links asking you to donate which come via email, phone call, text message or social media. The National Cyber Security Centre have produced advice to help you recognise and report scams. Scottish consumers can report suspected scams and suspicious activity using the Quick Reporting Tool at scamwatch.scot
- Never feel under pressure by a fundraiser into making a donation immediately. If you are seeking further assurance about how your donation will be used, you can contact the charity directly. If you are unable to find contact details, the charity’s Register entry, on the OSCR website, will include a means of contacting the charity.
- You could consider donating using a credit card, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases. Using a credit card (rather than a debit card) also means that if your payment details are stolen, your main bank account won’t be directly affected. If you are asked to donate money via bank transfer or gift card, it is likely to be a scam.
- The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) is an umbrella body that brings together 15 UK aid charities to raise funds quickly and efficiently at times of crisis overseas.
- If you have a concern about a charity, or identify that something is not operating as it should, you can inform OSCR using their online Charity Concern Form.
- If you think you may have given your details to a fake charity, you can contact your bank to seek advice and report this to Police Scotland by calling 101.