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Here’s how to avoid charity scams this Mandela Day

13 July 2022 - 13:00
Do not fall prey to scams this Mandela Day. Stock photo.
Do not fall prey to scams this Mandela Day. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/IQONCEPT

As South Africans prepare to lend a helping hand in celebration of Mandela Day, a charity volunteering platform has warned about scams. 

Volunteering platform forgood warned about charity scams after it noted an increase in fake websites, convincing emails and crowdfunding platforms this month

The platform said a key concern is whether donations are meeting real needs and going to legitimate organisations. 

It said by choosing verified non-profit organisations and initiatives to support, generous South Africans can avoid less scrupulous causes and ensure they are making an impact on the lives of those in need.

“The first question to ask yourself when selecting a cause is whether it is servicing a real need. Instead of volunteering for an activity that will look good on your Instagram handle or give you an ego boost, ask whether the results of the volunteering will end up helping people, animals or the environment in any real and meaningful way,” said forgood CEO Romy Heldsinger.

Heldsinger said another common issue when it came to giving back was charity fraud. 

She said cybercrime was on the rise and occasions like Mandela Day are being leveraged by scammers who have spotted an opportunity to capitalise on donors’ goodwill. 

“In some cases, these non-profits might be fully registered but devote little of the money they raise to the programmes they promote or people they purport to be assisting.  

“The impact of charity fraud is twofold. On the one hand, donors and volunteers are cheated of their time and money, and are less likely to risk it again in future. On the other, non-profit organisations and social initiatives lose out on money and skills they desperately need to continue functioning, which can have devastating long-term effects,” said Heldsinger.

Over the years the Nelson Mandela Foundation has exposed more than 40 scams using the late former president’s name. 

“There are a number of scams perpetrated in the late Nelson Mandela’s name, or in the name of one of his charity organisations. These scams undermine the legacy of Mandela as well as the work of his charities,” said the foundation. 

How can I verify if an organisation is legitimate? 

Check its credentialsBefore making a donation or signing up to volunteer, ask to see the not-for-profit certificate, public benefit organisation certificate and evidence of SA Revenue Service clearance.

Keep track of activity on social media — Non-profits actively making a difference will usually share their activities via their social media channels. This is a good way to see how they are using donations and ensure they continue to be active.

Check if the site is secure — To ensure your data and credit card information are safe, look out for URLs that begin with “https” instead of “http”. Additionally, make sure to use trusted payment gateways, such as PayFast, when making donations.

Double-check the name and URL — Scam websites and email addresses may mimic an established, well-known charity, but if you look closely, you’ll spot that the name is slightly incorrect.

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