Cyber thieves are tying up valuable resources at a major Australian charity trying to distribute bushfire funds, by using bots to generate hundreds of fraudulent claims.
Australian Red Cross, which has about 60 staff distributing grants of up to $20,000 per application, has come under attack by computer generated applications for bushfire relief assistance.
ARC’s director of Australian Services Noel Clement said they are weeding out false claims but it’s time consuming and wastes resources.
“There have been hundreds of automated attempts to access financial assistance,” he told AAP.
“There are a couple of hundred claims that we have concerns about and we are working through all of those and we have already referred a number of cases to the police.
He said in one community alone we had applications for 15 homes that had been destroyed but when they physically checked the addresses none of them had been impacted by the fires.
“We have distributed immediate financial assistance to more than 2,600 people who have tragically lost their homes or been hospitalised or in some cases for those who have lost family members,” he said.
“For a majority of claims we have been able to confirm the information provided on the claims and made payments quickly.”
The turnaround time for bushfire relief payouts, once an application is verified, is just a few days and they are distributing about $1 million a day, of the $115 million in donations received, to victims,’ he said.
A spokeswoman for the National Bushfire Recovery Agency said they are working closely with the Commonwealth Fraud Prevention Centre to build robust fraud prevention strategies.
She also warned of an SMS scam that offered increased tax relief for donations.
“There is an SMS scam that is asking people to click on a link and provide personal information in order to receive an eight per cent bonus on their tax return.
“Attempted or detected fraud against these programs will be treated very seriously and action taken against those who try to take advantage of our communities during this critical time of need,” she said..
An Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission representative said online fraud was a constant challenge for charities that drained limited resources and forced them to engage cybersecurity experts.
“This can be time consuming, expensive and resource intensive.”