Protect your charity from scams

Charitable organisations are being targeted by scammers. Making Music provides guidance on how you can take protective measures.

It’s a sad truth that small community organisations are high on the target list for scammers and fraudsters. Technology makes it ever easier for criminals to target local organisations like music groups, and the people that run them in their thousands.  

The good news is that with a bit of care and attention, these scams can be stopped. The basic premise they operate on is to trick or pressure individuals into making a mistake. So, if you stay vigilant and apply a bit of healthy scepticism, you can stay safe and protect your group.   

Here are three examples of scam attempts we have heard of recently from our member groups – none of which worked due to the vigilance of the people targeted.  

  • An email claiming to be from your chair or music director asking you to make a payment to them.  
  • An email about a piano for sale – but there is no piano (communication would abruptly stop once you have made payment). 
  • A phone call claiming to be from your bank saying there is a problem with your account, and you need to transfer funds straight away.  

These scams have giveaways that can help you to identify them. Emails will show a relevant name such as the chair or MD (taken from your website), making it appear as if it had been sent by them. If you click or hover on the name, you will see the actual email address behind it. This is likely to be something randomly generated and not the actual email of the chair or MD. 

Small signs of unprofessionalism in email correspondence from a company are a good tip-off too, such as grammar and spelling mistakes or a blurry image in an email signature for example.  

The most important thing you can do is give your self some time and trust your gut. Most scams work on creating a sense of urgency and pressure, designed to make you act without thinking. If the messaging contains some urgency or you are feeling under pressure, stop and give yourself some to time to think. You can ignore an email, or hang up the phone.  

Even without urgency it might just not feel right. If the email doesn’t seem like the MD’s usual style or something about the piano description sounds off, trust that feeling.  

If something has made your antenna go off, the best thing you can do is act on it by checking the request or information from a second source. Call the MD directly, look for some official information about a piano company online or at Companies House, call your bank directly using details from their website and ask about your account. Simply asking another person in your group for their view can help you think it through and sense check it.

A final point is to consider how banks can help keep you and your charity safe. Many online bank accounts now have features to help you check payments you are making are not part of scams. If you don’t have online banking currently it might be worth investigating as an extra layer of security.  

Find out more information about which bank you should use as a not-for-profit organisation via our resource page