Regulator warns charities of fraud threat during pandemic

The Charity Commission has warned charities to be on their guard against fraud and cyber crime during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The regulator said police had reported an increase in coronavirus-related scams and it was issuing an alert to help charities avoid falling victim to criminals. 

It said all charities, but particularly those providing services and supporting local communities during the outbreak, could be targeted by fraudsters. 

The regulator warned charities to be aware of procurement fraud involving the online sale of personal protective equipment such as face masks and gloves. 

It said once payment is made, no products are delivered or they are substandard.

“Carry out due diligence if you’re making a purchase on behalf of your charity from a company or person you do not know,” the regulator said. 

It said Action Fraud had also released guidance about shopping safely online.

The commission also warned charities about other types of cyber crime, such as mandate fraud, in which criminals attempt to impersonate people at a charity or other organisation in order to persuade payments to be redirected to their account. 

It said charities should ensure they have the latest software and app updates installed on any devices to protect them from threats. 

The National Cyber Security Centre has issued guidance on keeping devices secure and further advice on minimising the risk of cyber crime against staff working at home

The commission said any incident of fraud should be reported promptly to it and Action Fraud. 

Kate Waring, head of risk at the Charity Commission, said: “The first step in fighting fraud is awareness. We particularly want to equip those smaller charities that are at the forefront of the nation’s response. These organisations might not necessarily have the resources to spot fraud attacks, and could be catastrophically affected if they fall victim. 

“I hope that today’s alert will help leaders who are working hard in the face of unprecedented challenges to take a moment to stop, think and consider our advice before committing to anything that might put their charities at risk.”

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