I was sitting at the dining room table, enjoying my oats and morning coffee when the phone rang.
‘Hello this is Ben from Microsoft, how are you today sir?’
‘Oh…’ here we go I thought. I had been waiting for one of these calls—a well-known scam of people pretending to be from Microsoft, organised from overseas to try and access your computer and lock it—all the while blaming a virus and requesting a fee through credit card payment to rectify the supposed virus.
To cut a long story short, the call lasted well over 45 minutes as I politely gave the attendant slightly different information about my computer’s IP (Internet) address, which he required in order to access my computer.
This resulted in his frustration, before sweating profusely, threatening my family and hanging up!
Identifying a scam
I believe if we waste enough of these people’s time and they get no-where then they will be more likely to quit trying altogether.
While many of us are savvy to these and other scams, many unsuspecting good people are not so much and these scammers have been known to use every tactic to try and get your hard earned dollars—from making you feel guilty if you do not give to a bogus charity, through to making you believe you will be in a lot of trouble with taxation department etc. if you do not pay a bail out fee.
The list of current scams is quite extensive and is broadening by the day.
So how can we identify if a charity is a scam?
When I looked into it, it can be harder than you think at first glance.
Fake charities are known to attempt setting up in shopping centre malls as much as the legitimate ones—the mall management are not obliged to do background checks, people even go as far as creating accurate fake ID’s and working fake phone numbers if you wish to call and verify the charity.
While it can be quite challenging trying to sniff out fake charities, there are certain things you can do to lessen the risk of being scammed.
Upon reading the Australian Government ACCC website on charity scams, there are a few tell-tale signs.
If the charity refuses a cheque made out to the name of the charity, or they request you just write a person’s name on the cheque ‘to make it easier for admin’—here is a good start.
Also if they request cash-only, you are not given a receipt or the receipt does not have the charity’s name, then alarm bells should also sound to indicate a scam.
They should have the following line on their correspondence which can be verified on the Australian government ACNC register:
[insert charity name] is registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission ABN [insert 11 digit ABN].
OK to say NO.
Do not give in to high pressure sales people.
I have found many legitimate charities resort also to high pressure sales tactics, usually the ones who hire 3rd party services to do the donation collections on behalf of the charity—they know how to twist your arm.
If you feel pressured but also feel the charity is for a good cause, take some information and look into it. There is no shame in avoiding being scammed or giving for the wrong reasons.
I especially dislike high pressure sales people and this extends to charity collectors.
For this reason, when we allocate our monthly budget, we allocate a certain amount for charities—and we seek them out personally after deciding what is on our hearts to give to for that month.
There is an Australian government website here which lists registered charities for you to confirm their legitimacy.
If you are not from Australia, many country’s governments offer similar services.
So a potential question pending in a Christian’s mind, if you discover you have fallen victim to a scam is, how does God view this? As a null and void transaction?
I feel God looks at our motives for giving, regardless of the cause we give to, if we believed it was for good but turned out to be a scam, our treasures will still be built up in heaven (Mathew 6:20).
Either way, it is much better to know how you might be scammed, avoid it and your dollars are going to a good cause.
Michael Dahlenburg is an electronics technician. He is non-denominational and has previously been involved in church plants and assisting those in ministry. His interests include; enjoying family, home DIY, gardening, most things tech-related and driving his wife crazy with a constant stream of inventions! He lives with his wife Michelle and three children in God’s own land of Southern Adelaide, Australia.Michael Dahlenburg’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/michael-dahlenburg.html