Fake charity websites can often be quite difficult to spot, and may even be identical to authentic charitable sites that do what they can to raise money for those in need.
Ronald K. Noble, founder of RKN Global, draws attention to the fact that there may be an increase in fake charity websites as the holiday season approaches.
Many prospective donors may assume that it is easy to spot a fake charity website; however, some of these sites are becoming increasingly convincing, encouraging innocent people to donate their money to a crime ring as opposed to the charity that it claims to be.
One method that criminals have previously used involves adding a telephone number to their fake website which charges the caller a premium rate, before forwarding the caller to the authentic website’s phone number. This method ensures that innocent caller are not aware of the scam, but they end up being charged a large sum for their telephone call in addition to the donation that they made. Those aware of this scam might not fall victim, but might be put off from contacting an authentic charity because of concerns about fraud.
An example of fake charity websites recently came to light when it was discovered that scammers created a fake RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) site that involved asking visitors to the site to donate money via a premium rate number. The UK-based charity, which works to reduce incidences of animal cruelty while working with the police to prosecute offenders, found 8 different telephone numbers for the RSPCA in less than a dozen fake web pages.
Some of the fake websites included social media feeds that had been sent from the RSPCA’s authentic social media accounts, without authorisation. This helps make a fake website look authentic and can convince prospective donors to part with their cash via a telephone that charges them a lot of money.
In this case, the UK’s communications regulator, Ofcom, and the RSPCA are trying to make people aware of the scam, in the hope that they will only use the contact details provided by the charities authentic website. Greater public awareness of the possibility of this fraud may help minimize its effects in other cases.