Beware of fraudsters

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RESIDENTS are being advised to be on their guard against fraudsters looking to exploit their charitable nature.

Recent natural disasters and catastrophic events have prompted an increase in genuine appeals for money to help those afflicted. However, a small number of criminals have taken this as an opportunity to take advantage of those wishing to help and have set up bogus collections.

Medina Patel, project development officer at Lancashire Constabulary, said: “There are unscrupulous people about who are looking to abuse the public’s generosity in response to humanitarian disasters by setting up fake appeals and keeping the donations for themselves. This can take the form of fake appeal websites, e-mail appeals that falsely use the name of genuine charities, appeals from fictitious charities or even people calling at your doorstep to ask directly for donations.

“While the vast majority of charities are collecting money for legitimate and worthwhile causes, some people use the pretence of charity to line their own pockets, so residents should be on their guard for bogus collectors.”

Residents are being given the following advice:

• Always check whether a collector is wearing a proper ID badge. Check whether a collector has authority to collect. A permit or license is usually required if raising money in a public place.

• If you are in doubt, ask for the charity’s name and number and check with the Charity Commission.

• Alternatively do not answer the door. If you are concerned, contact the police.

• If you want to give to a particular charity then visit their website, shop or office to obtain information on how you can donate online, by phone, post, via direct debit or directly to their bank account.

• Be careful when responding to e-mails or clicking links within them. Don’t “click-through” from suspicious-looking emails and beware of unfamiliar or excessively long website addresses. If you want to donate online, type in the charity’s website address from your homepage.

• If you receive collection bags or fund-raising materials from non-charitable organisations claiming to be charitable, and/or using a false registration number, you should contact the police or your local trading standards office,

Further information is available from the Charity Commission on 0845 300 0218 or http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk