Fraud cases prompt new advice from Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has called on charity trustees to minimise the risk of fundraising fraud after four separate instances this month where charity fraudsters were convicted.

The new guidance on safer giving follows this week's conviction of three men on terrorism charges who funded their activities partly by appropriating funds collected in the name of Muslim Aid.

These convictions were one of four separate cases of fundraising fraud by criminals this month, with a man sentenced to jail for bogus collections, two financial advisers imprisoned for a gift aid scam and a Southampton gang convicted for making cash collections using a Marie Curie Cancer Care logo.

The Charity Commission has called on the giving public to ask more questions and be more vigilant when donating, but has issued advice to trustees on how to reduce the risks of fraud. Research released by the Commission in December last year found that two in five donors do not check fundraiser credentials when they are making a gift. 

The new guidance comes as Crimestoppers is in talks to potential develop a charity-specific hotline for reports of charity fraud from the public and staff, although Crimestoppers said there was no definite timeframe for any such line going forward.

Among the Commission’s advice is a recommendation that charities demand back the cash collected and branded paraphernalia used by legitimate fundraisers as soon as possible, and to act on any reports of illegitimate collections they come across.

'Trust and confidence' fears

Michelle Russell, Charity Commission head of investigations and enforcement, admitted that it was not possible to detect and prevent all fraud, but said the steps advised should make criminal activity less likely.

“These steps make it more difficult for fraudsters to abuse charities and help reassure the public that they can give sagely to charity,” she said. “Most people who fundraise and support charities are honest, but there are individuals who will, if not challenge, use a charity’s name to exploit the trust and confidence the public has in charities.”

The issue of public trust and confidence is one picked up on by both the Fundraising Standards Board and the Institute of Fundraising.

Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, said that the instances of fraud were “deeply concerning”.

“By stealing funds for charitable causes, criminals are not only deceiving kind-hearted supporters, but jeopardising public trust in charitable giving,” he said.

The Institute’s director of policy and communications Ceri Edwards said charities will always be susceptible to such fraud.

Edwards said: “It’s important to acknowledge that criminal actions like the ones highlighted this week should not diminish or discourage the efforts of the millions of honest volunteer fundraisers that make such a different to so many.”

This article was taken from Civil Society – http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/fundraising/news/content/14553/