How to Donate to Charity Safely and Avoid Charity Fundraiser Scams

A simple practical guide and checklists to help you donate safely to charity and avoid charity and school fundraiser scams

How to Donate to Charity Safely and Avoid Charity Fundraiser Scams

Nobody knows how much in donations is lost to charity and school fundraiser scams but £ billions seems likely and that doesn’t take into account the lost donations to genuine charities because people who might otherwise donate choose not because of the scams.

What are the Biggest Charity Fundraising Scams?

There are lots of different types of charity scam but here are some of the most common.

  • Bogus charity sites – fake websites for charities that do not exist, such as temporary fraudulent websites set up during well publicised disasters (for example famines and earthquakes).
  • Phishing emails – emails sent to you attempting to trick you into disclosing your bank details and passwords.
  • Fraud resulting from making payments over unsecured web pages.
  • Identity theft caused by viruses or spyware, giving criminals access to your bank account and other personal information stored on your computer.

How Do I Avoid Charity Scams When Donating?

  • Be particularly wary of unsolicited e mails or calls.
    • Never share card details, PINs or three-digit security codes.
    • Never click links or open documents, as these may contain malware.
    • If you are called by a telephone fundraiser, the number you are being called from should be an identifiable phone number.
    • To check if a call/e mail is genuine, don’t use any contact details given to you and, instead. Google the charity’s name and use the contact details/donate button on their website.
  • Do not respond to requests to donate through a money transfer company such as Western Union or MoneyGram, as this is a tactic commonly used in scams.
  • If provided with bank details, only donate to accounts in the name of the charity, not an individual.
  • Donate to charities you know and trust.
  • On the street and at your door.
    • Check whether fundraisers are wearing a proper ID badge, and that any collection tin is sealed.

How Do I Choose A Charity to Donate to? 

  • What causes matter most to you?  Global or local, what cause and even how?
    • You can search a charity regulators database, but that’s UK only and not all charities are registered.
    • Or Google to find suitable charities – ‘a women’s charity working to alleviate poverty in Pakistan’.
  • Research the charity.
    • If you see information about an organisation’s registered charity status or number, you can verify this with the charity regulator in England and WalesNorthern Ireland or Scotland.
    • Search the name plus “complaint,” “review,” “rating,” or “scam.”
    • If the charity’s materials display the Fundraising Badge, or for Scottish registered charities, the Fundraising Guarantee, it may be more committed to good fundraising practice.
  • If they are a registered charity, their entry in the register will provide you with lots of information and you can also download their accounts.
    • This will tell you what their funding is spent on, including details of any staff paid more than £60k pa.
  • Don’t necessarily take claims of having very low overheads into account.
    • Any charity costs money to run and sometimes charities will choose accounting policies that minimise the amount reported in their accounts.
  • If low admin overheads are really important to you, consider choosing a small volunteer run charity.
    • Staffing is normally by far the biggest expenses in a budget.
    • But bear in mind that the very small charities do not have the reach of larger ones, the ability to deliver major change or the economies of scale.
  • If you’re not sure, donating to a group like the Disasters Emergency Committee can be a good choice, or follow their advice which can be trusted.
    • It is run by very experienced charities and set up to mobilise help quickly in the face of disaster.
    • For example, support for Gaza.

 What Else Could I Do to Support A Charity? 

  • If you’re a UK taxpayer, as long as you sign a Gift Aid declaration, the charity will receive an additional 25% from HMRC (your basic rate tax).
    • If you’re a higher rate taxpayer, you can claim the remaining tax back in your Self-Assessment making your donation cheaper to give.
  • Supporting charities isn’t just about donating money – there are lots of other ways you could help. Many have fundraising packs you can download or which they will send to you.
    • Volunteering at one of their offices, or remotely.
    • Donating items if they have charity shops.
    • Hosting a fundraiser at your workplace, school or just amongst friends.
    • Or even just going along to one of their events and having a good time.   

How Do I Donate to a Charity Shop?

To donate to a charity shop, take your saleable clothing, bric a brac, toys, books etc into a charity shop and ask a staff-member where they would like you to leave them. Do not leave your donations outside the shop, unless there is a dedicated collection bank.  Clothes should be gently used (or new), clean and not damaged.  Ripped, damaged, wet, dirty, or stained clothing should not be donated.  Shops may not be able to accept items for safety reasons  (eg electric fires), hygiene reasons (eg cosmetics) or legal reasons (eg medicines) , or donations which need a licence. If in doubt, contact them or check their website.

Thank You for Donating

Life can be incredibly hard for some and even a small donation to a charity will make a real difference to a cause you care about.  Thank you for helping others.

And Donating to Charity is Good for You Too

Research has identified a link between making a donation to charity and increased activity in the area of the brain that registers pleasure – proving that as the old adage goes, it really is far better to give than to receive.

How Do I Report a Charity Scam?

Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber crime.

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