'Felt worse than losing my house': Woman's shock at discovering fundraising scam

Devastated Brigid Bates thought losing her home to raging bushfires that ravaged NSW’s south was as bad as it got.

But the resident of Batlow, which was decimated by the giant 330,000-hectare Dunns Road fire, revealed days after she lost her home on January 3, she discovered she’d become the target of scammers who were using her misfortune to generate cash through fake funding pages.

"That was a low point – I actually felt worse than when I found out my house had burned down," Ms Bates told the Today show on Monday.

Batlow resident Brigid Bates appears on The Today Show.
Bushfire victim Brigid Bates say she was devastated to realise she'd had her identity stolen by scammers. Source: Today

"The pit of my stomach dropped. There was someone preying on the generosity of people that my brother knows, my family, my friends, sending direct messages that looked like they came from me to donate to this scam page."

Ms Bates had been in Brisbane celebrating Christmas with her family when she found out her home had been lost.

When family friends enquired how they could help, her brother Brendan thought it would be best to set up a GoFundMe page.

Ms Bates revealed she was initially reluctant to do so as she was “quite a proud and private person” but with a wave of support she agreed to take donations.

However after he created the page, three separate fundraisers were created online using Ms Bates’ image and were sending private messages to entice donations.

Ms Bates' home was destroyed by the Dunns Road bushfire. Source: GoFundMe
Ms Bates' home was destroyed by the Dunns Road bushfire. Source: GoFundMe

She is now urging anyone wishing to make a financial donation to those affected by the fires to be vigilant to any potential scams.

"I don't want to deter people from donating to causes they see fit, but please do your due diligence and try and check that it is legitimate,” she said.

ACCC’s bushfire scam warning

Last week the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission issued a warning over the wide range of fake appeals circulating online.

“Do not donate via fundraising pages on platforms that do not verify the legitimacy of the fundraiser or that do not guarantee your money will be returned if the page is determined to be fraudulent,” the watchdog warned.

“Be careful about crowdfunding requests as these may be fake and also come from scammers.

“Check the terms and conditions of funding platforms and ensure you are dealing with official organisations. If you are unsure, make your donation to an established charity instead.”

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