Fraudulent Donation Sites

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The invasion of Ukraine has brought out the best in people. But also, it has brought out the worst. Whilst people all over the world are working out how they can help the people in Ukraine and those fleeing the bombing, others are working out how they can exploit this kindness.

There’s little point trying to work out ‘why’ they would do this, as at the end of the day scammers are after easy money. And easy money comes from the elderly, vulnerable or those under stress or with heightened emotions. Needless to say, the situation in Ukraine has heightened emotions which means people are not as vigilant as they would normally be. They just want to help.

This means the scammers are preparing to emails, SMS and set up fake websites to make you part with your money, or to download malware to your device which can end up costing a lot more than the £20 donation you were intending to make on the website.

How to tell if they are scams

Unfortunately, as many of the legitimate donation sites have only come into existence over the last three weeks, it can be difficult to spot the genuine from the scammers but there are always some things to look out for.

  • High percentages – A site which claims 100% of the donations will be donated could be a cause for concern as there is always going to be some overheads with running a charity.
  • Names – Fake websites will have realistic sounding names – in fact they will be similar to the legitimate ones. However, there may be something off about the site name. Perhaps there is a spelling mistake of a well-known charity they are claiming to be, or the English is very poor on the home page. Most charities hire copywriters to ensure the text is perfect.
  • Vague – Scam sites are often vague in their description of how the donations will be used.
  • Connections – Most legitimate donation sites will be affiliated with a registered charity, recognisable organisation or will have a registered charity number. If they don’t have these then they could be cause for concern.
  • Eastern Europe Prescence – If there is an affiliation with a charity, it could be worth checking that they have presence in Eastern Europe already. This will give some indication as to whether they can deliver what they promise.
  • Emails – It is unlikely that a new, legitimate charity you have never heard of is going to email you asking you for donations – normally with a nice convenient link to take you to their website. If you sign up to charity newsletters and you get an email asking for donations don’t click on links to be on the safe side. 

Keeping yourself safe

Many of the same IT security rules apply here, in the same way as they would apply with any other online dealings.

  • Emails – Don’t click on Donate Now links in emails from unsolicited emails. Instead if you trust the source – it’s from a recognised sender – go via their website through a search engine instead.
  • Social Media – Just because a friend of family member posted a donation link on social media doesn’t mean it is legitimate. Do your own due diligence and check out the charity yourself before donating.
  • Passwords/pins – Anyone asking for passwords or pin numbers in odd places should raise a red flag. For example, many sites require you to create or sign in to their website which is fine, but if they are asking for anything to do with your bank details step away.
  • Payment – If you feel confident to make a donation do so using Paypal or a credit card as there is a certain element of protection should it turn out not to be legitimate.
  • Padlock – Any website that deals with financial transactions safely will have the little padlock symbol in the search bar. No excuses like they set up the site quickly to help people. No padlock, no payment.

To be 100% safe from scammers it is best to only donate via well-known charities, government schemes or local organisations that you trust. Many people over the last three weeks have come up with great ideas to support Ukrainians such as book rooms on AirBnB in Kyiv, or buy digital products from Ukrainian stores on Etsy. However, these are too easy for the scammers as most people aren’t going to check when the stores were set up or when the first room was put up for rent or even if the ‘shops’ or ‘rooms’ are owned by Ukrainian-based businesses.

It’s human to want to help but make sure your money is actually going to the people you intend it to go to and be extra vigilant when donating online.

Thank you

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