(Australian Associated Press)
Generous Australian who donated to bushfire appeals they now believe were scams can now ring a specific hotline.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on Tuesday opened its dedicated number – 1300 795 995 – for reporting bushfire-related scams.
Reports can also be made on the Scamwatch website, where more information about where to get help is available.
Donors can protect themselves by being wise to cold-calling, fake websites, and direct messaging, the consumer watchdog said.
“Do not donate via fundraising pages on platforms that do not verify the legitimacy of the fundraiser or that do not guarantee your money will be returned if the page is determined to be fraudulent,” a spokesman said.
“If you are unsure, make your donation to an established charity instead.”
The Australia Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Charity Register lists all registered charities and their official websites.
“If you think you have paid money to a scammer, please contact your bank immediately,” the ACCC said.
The NSW Rural Fire Service Association was forced earlier this week to confirm cold calls from 02 9094 2428 were made by its fundraising centre, amid rumours the calls were a scam.
Crowdfunding site GoFundMe, where more than $5 million has been raised this season for bushfire appeals, said it would guarantee donors refunds in the rare event campaign creators misuse funds.
“Before money is transferred to an individual, their personal information, including ID and banking information, must be verified,” a spokeswoman told AAP.
“If someone is raising money for someone they don’t know, they will rarely touch the money. Instead, GoFundMe will work with the campaign organisers to ensure it goes directly into the beneficiary’s bank account.”