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Charity watchdog warns of Haiti appeal scams

Charity watchdog warns of Haiti appeal scams

The is warning the public to avoid falling for financial scams that have arisen in the wake of the Haiti earthquake. It has published advice for those who want to support those affected by the disaster in Haiti, whether by fundraising or by making a personal donation.

As in previous disasters which have attracted many charitable donations, the Haiti earthquake is being exploited by criminals trying to take advantage of the public’s generosity.

The Commission reports that it has been made aware of a number of online scams designed to steal charitable donations. These can take the form of fictitious appeal websites, email appeals that falsely use the name of genuine charities, or appeals from fictitious charities.

So far the Commission has only come across online scams relating to the appeal, but offline ones could emerge.

The Commission is urging the public to continue giving but to be vigilant. It offers the following advice:

* Be careful when responding to emails or clicking links within them to ensure that they are genuine. If you have any concerns about the legitimacy of a request for donations that appears to come from a charity, don’t hesitate to contact that charity directly.

* If you are in any doubt about a charity collector, ask for their identification and the charity’s name and registration number. If you are not happy about giving then and there, you can check to see if the charity is on the public register of charities on the Commission’s website – www.charitycommission.gov.uk.

* If you are concerned that you may have been targeted by a fundraising scam, you should report this to the police. You should also contact the Charity Commission on 0845 300 0218 or via the website –

* If you want to donate online to a particular charity, visit the charity’s website.

* Think about how you are going to give. If you are a UK taxpayer and donate directly to a charity online or over the phone it can claim Gift Aid to maximise your donation.

The Commission points out that the main appeal for the Haiti crisis is being run by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).

For members of the public wanting to fundraise for those who have been affected by the Haiti disaster, the Commission has this advice:

* Have the necessary permission from your local authority or the Metropolitan Police if you live in a London borough.

* Only collect using a sealed tin or container.

* Always make sure you state the name and registration number of the charity you are collecting for.

* Always make sure there is more than one person to count the collection proceeds and sign off the total amount

* Bank any cash as soon as possible, preferably straight into the charity account. Get a receipt from the Bank/Building Society.

* Report back to your community so they are reassured that the money has reached the good cause. You may wish to put notices in shops/post offices, or let your local paper know how much you raised and thank people for their support.

www.charitycommission.gov.uk

Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp.

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