Charities lost £1.6m of public donations to online fraud over the last year, according to data from Action Fraud.
Between October 2020 to October 2021, Action Fraud received 702 reports of online charity fraud from the general public, with total losses amounting to £1.6m in this time.
This is up by 16% on the previous year. Regulators had previously warned that the pandemic put charities at greater risk of online fraud.
The true level of funds lost is likely to be higher, as fraud is often underreported.
This fraud included donations to non-existent charities and the fraudulent collection of funds for genuine charities.
Safer giving campaign
The Fundraising Regulator has joined with the Charity Commission, National Trading Standards and Action Fraud to emphasise the importance of donating safely this festive season.
The regulator advised the public to be mindful when donating to charity, by checking the legitimacy of the charity by ensuring it is registered with the Charity Commission, using the Fundraising Regulator’s directory to check whether it is registered, if it has a fundraising badge or asking for more information before donating.
Gerald Oppenheim, chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, said: “The British public is always exceedingly generous when giving to charity, and we want to make sure that they can continue to do so, safe in the knowledge that their donation is going to its intended cause.
“Just a few simple steps – including looking out for the Fundraising Badge, which means a charity has committed to best practice – will help the general public to make informed decisions when donating to good causes, and we are pleased to be working closely with other regulators to deliver this important message.”
‘Preying on goodwill’
Mike Andrews, national co-ordinator at the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, said: “Online fraudsters are preying on the goodwill of generous people digging deep to give to charitable causes. If you are looking to make a charitable contribution online this festive period, it's important to carry out some checks to ensure your money goes where you intend it to. Follow the advice from the Fundraising Regulator and, before you part with your money, check the website to ensure it is genuine.”
Pauline Smith, director of Action Fraud, echoed this advice. She said: “Charities work tirelessly all year round to help those in greatest need. Sadly, criminals will try to abuse the generosity and goodwill of others and this can have a huge financial impact on charities and the causes they support.
“We would encourage people not to be put off donating to charities, but to follow a few simple steps to ensure your donations don’t end up in the wrong hands this Christmas. Make sure you do your research before donating to ensure you’re giving your money to a legitimate charity this Christmas.”
Paul Latham, director of communications and policy at the Charity Commission, said that looking up a charity on the Commission website before donating will let the donor see the way it is run and what the charity spends its money on.
He said: “Many people give very generously at Christmas. By making simple online checks, donors can ensure their hard-earned money reaches genuine registered charities, which are accountable to the Charity Commission and the public for the way they are run, and how they spend their income.”