News that fraudsters have stooped to new lows by setting up fake charitable appeals online has led the Fraud Advisory Panel (FAP) to call for better fraud detection controls. Fraudsters have recently been caught copying photographs and content from online fundraising websites that were raising money for a child battling leukaemia and the family of a victim of the Westminster terrorist attack.
Speaking on BBC Radio yesterday morning, David Clarke, Director of the FAP and the former head of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau said: “Use technology to protect us.”
In response to GoFundMe’s statement that they would refund anyone that falls victim to a fake appeal, David said “it’s really refreshing to hear that the site is doing something like this.
“It’s great that Britain is one of the most charitable and benevolent countries in the developed world, but we want to see that money going to the right place.”
David encouraged the public to “do extra checking before you give.” Particularly with the rise of social media over the last decade, beware of campaigns shared over social media or unsolicited messages and e-mails. Check that the website and appeal look legitimate, whether or not the campaign is well explained, if you recognise the charity if one is mentioned.
“There’s no harm giving, just check that you’re giving to the right place.
“If you do see something suspicious report it as quickly as possible to the fundraising website, the charity in question, and the Action Fraud service so they can get alerts out to take them down. We’ve got to do our bit.”
David also called for more checks by the fundraising sites themselves. “We know there are systems that can look at copied images and copied text [from legitimate sources being used in false campaigns] – these are things which I’d encourage the regulator and the giving sites to be using to monitor [appeals]. Use technology to protect us.”
When asked if greater regulation of crowdfunding was necessary, David replied that more regulation isn’t necessarily the answer.
“It’s very easy to fall back on regulation and the law. We [already] have some of the strictest laws, and the most sophisticated systems in the world for preventing fraud, but we’re dealing with some pretty horrible sick people, who know how to manipulate people. They know how to use technology to their advantage.”
Instead, the Fraud Advisory Panel is calling better implementation of technology by crowdfunding sites to spot fraudulent appeals, and more “practical responsibility” on behalf of the public when donating.