Fraudsters use sham UK charity appeals to steal money via emails, social media

By Magdalena Mis

By Magdalena Mis

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Fraudsters have been using social media and emails to trick British corporations and members of the public to donate money to fake charity appeals, the UK's charity regulator said on Tuesday.

In one case, emails purporting to be from Migrant Helpline - a genuine charity supporting migrants - were sent to individuals and businesses with a link containing malware to steal banking details, the Charity Commission said.

The emails contained details of a bogus donation to Syrian families and invited recipients to clink on a link to retrieve more information about their donation, Migrant Helpline said in a warning posted on its website.

"We've noticed that whenever there is a spike in interest in an issue then unfortunately the criminals will try and manipulate that for their own end," a spokesman for the Charity Commission told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"We are telling the public to be aware of fake emails from fake charities, especially those using general terms like 'we're donating money on behalf of migrants'. Be very aware of those and only give to trusted charities," he said by phone.

Syria's conflict has forced more than 11 million people - around half of the population - from their homes in one of the world's biggest humanitarian crises.

In another scam, criminal groups used social media to dupe British donors into giving money to a fake animal welfare appeal. The donations were later diverted to overseas accounts, the commission said.

It gave no details on how much money was lost through the scams.

(Reporting by Magdalena Mis @magdalenamis1 Editing by Katie Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit