Charities urged to be viligant against new fraud scam

Charities across the country risk having their bank accounts emptied by a new fraud, the Charity Commission has warned today.

It has emerged that charities are cheated when they receive a generous - but bogus - cheque, but are subsequently asked to repay half the sum because of a claimed administrative error by the unscrupulous 'donor'.

If unsuspecting charities repay this money, they find that the original cheque bounces, leaving them robbed of thousands of pounds.

Over 100,000 charities have an income of less than £10,000 and this fraud could potentially wipe out a significant chunk of their income.

The new fraud was unearthed when the Brian Byrnes Memorial Fund, a charity which supports Bangladeshi orphans, received a cheque for £4,500 – which would have quadrupled the charity's current income. Before the charity cashed it in, it was asked to return £2,500 to a different bank account.

Chairman of the charity's trustees, Peter Byrnes, said: "It was so believable - the cheque was from a genuine bank and I spoke to the donor on the phone several times. We're used to spotting scams, but because we received a cheque from an individual, we took it as legitimate. I'm just relieved we didn't make any repayment, as the cheque bounced."

Simon Gillespie, director of operations at the Charity Commission, said that this was a "very sinister operation" because it was so plausible.

Mr Gillespie urged all charities to be vigilant and never return any donation before the cheque has cleared.

If trustees have any suspicions they should contact their local police or call the Commission's helpline on 0870 333 0123.


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