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The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
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Beware of charity fraud this Christmas time

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland has urged anyone considering donating to charity this Christmas to give with confidence by undertaking some simple checks first. 

“It’s traditional to give at Christmas time and many more people may be tempted to give to charity this month than usual,” said Tom McGrath, Chief Charity Commissioner.

“Most requests for donations will be genuine but with fraud becoming more sophisticated it’s important that you have full confidence in who you’re giving to.

“If you’re in any doubt, the Commission has a range of resources anyone can access including details of registered charities and details of their expenditure, as well as ten tips for safer Christmas giving.“

At present, there are 5,300 charities registered and listed on the public register of charities, available to search here, with more charities registered on a weekly, often daily, basis. 

In addition to the register, the Commission has also published a registration list which details the names of each charity it is aware of to call forward to apply for registration. This list also details where, to date, a charity is registered, has been refused registration or has closed. 

While checking the registration list is its top tip, the Commission has also highlighted additional checks which can be undertaken when donating to charity this Christmas.

The Commission’s safer Christmas giving tips:

1. Check the registration list, available to view here, to ensure the Commission knows about the charity and it is prepared to meet its legal duty to apply for registration.

2. If the charity has been registered by the Commission then search for it via the public register of charities to find out important information on its charitable purposes and public benefit.

3. To donate online to a particular charity, look for that charity's website. Check that you have the right web address.

4. Be careful when responding to emails or clicking links on emails. Always check emails are genuine by looking out for spelling mistakes or other signs that the email is not genuine. If you have any concerns, don't hesitate to contact the charity directly.

5. Check whether a collector has the authority to collect. A permit or license is usually required if raising money in a public place. These permits are obtained through the PSNI at present.

6. Ask the collector how much of your donation goes to the charity. There's no fixed rule about what percentage should be given to charity, but our advice is for people to ask what proportion of gross profit goes to the charity. This allows you to make an informed choice before you give.

7. Ask the collector for more information about what donations will be used for. A genuine charity will understand that you may wish to know more and should be happy to answer questions.

8. Check that the collection tin is sealed and that it is not damaged.

9. If in doubt send your donation directly to the charity.

10. It is always good practice for charities to tell you how your money has been used after you have given via emails, newsletters or other communications.