Regulators urge public to take care when donating to charity after £2.7m lost to fraudsters

To mark ‘Giving Tuesday’, an international day of increased generosity, the Fundraising Regulator, Charity Commission for England and Wales (CCEW) and Action Fraud have today launched their annual safer giving campaign to remind people how to give safely to charities.

The campaign launch comes as new data from Action Fraud reveals fraudsters diverted more than £2.7m from charities in the last year. The data also revealed there were 501 charity fraud crime reports between 1 November 2022 and 31 October 2023.   

Most charity fundraising is genuine. However, fraudsters and criminals sometimes take advantage of public generosity at times of increased giving, using methods such as fake appeal websites, email appeals that falsely use the name of genuine charities, or appeals from fake charities.

Helping to ensure donations reach their intended cause remains vital as the cost-of-living crisis continues to have a significant impact. According to recent research from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, nearly one in five charities are at risk of stopping operations this winter, mostly due to lower incomes, higher costs and increased demand.  

Upon launching the campaign, which spans the festive period, the regulators highlighted that following safer giving steps should empower people to feel reassured as they donate to genuine good causes, and not feel disheartened by the data.  People who want to donate to charity this winter can do so with confidence by following some simple steps and top tips for giving safely:  

  • Check the charity’s name and registration number on the Charity Register at www.gov.uk/checkcharity – most charities with an annual income of £5,000 or more must be registered.
  • Make sure the charity is genuine before giving any financial information.
  • Be careful when responding to emails or clicking on links within them.
  • Contact or find out more online about the charity that you’re seeking to donate to or work with to understand how they are spending their funds
  • Look out for the Fundraising Badge – the logo that says ‘registered with Fundraising Regulator’ – and check the Fundraising Regulator’s Directory of organisations which have committed to fundraise in line with the Code of Fundraising Practice.
  • A face-to-face fundraiser should have a licence from the relevant Local Authority Licensing team or the Metropolitan Police (in Greater London). Never feel under pressure into donating immediately. Ask the collector for more information and if in doubt, wait and make a donation directly at a time that suits you.

Those seeking to support local causes with an income of less than £5,000 (which are not required to be on the Charity Register) are encouraged to follow other recommended steps aside from checking our register, including getting in touch with the charity for more information.

The campaign comes ahead of the festive season, during which appeals for charitable donations increase and the British public is more likely to give than during the rest of the year. A recent study by the Charitable Aid Foundation put the UK third in world rankings of giving, with 71 percent of people regularly donating money to charitable causes.

In light of Action Fraud’s data, the regulators are also reminding charities to protect themselves against fraud this Charity Fraud Awareness Week.

Gerald Oppenheim, CEO of the Fundraising Regulator, said:

“The festive period is always marked by increased charitable giving by the British public, who are always exceedingly generous when donating to charities.

While fraudsters continue to be creative, a few simple checks will increase the chances your donation will go to a legitimate cause. I encourage you to share this message with family and friends, particularly those who are elderly or vulnerable. Charities perform essential work in the UK and globally all year round, against a difficult economic backdrop, so we want to make sure that members of the public are taking appropriate measures to ensure their hard-earned money reaches the causes they care about.”

Dr Helen Stephenson CBE , Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, said: 

“The incredible generosity we see from the British public stretches even further during the festive period. We want to encourage and support this incredible good will. 

Make it tougher for fraudsters by following a few quick and simple checks, such as looking up a charity on our register, before donating to a cause you care about. More than ever, it is vital every penny reaches the sector.” 

Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said: 

“All year-round, charities across the country work tirelessly to help those greatest in need. Some fraudsters may take advantage of our generosity, they may claim to be raising money for a fake organisation or impersonate a well-known charity. This can block legitimate donations, but also impact the good work of the charity.

Most fundraising appeals are genuine, so the risk of fraud should not put you off giving to charities. Instead, follow a few simple steps to ensure your donations don’t end up in the wrong hands. Make sure you do thorough research before donating, to be confident that you are giving safely to legitimate organisations.”