Scammers hoping to take advantage of the bushfire crisis have begun door-knocking homes seeking donations, the Victorian government warned.
After the national consumer watchdog on Tuesday opened a dedicated line for reporting bushfire-related scams, Victorian Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville warned some current frauds involved people impersonating bushfire victims.
“Because everyone wants to do so much, people are contributing towards what are scams and fakes, including some door-knocking,” she told reporters in Bairnsdale.
Ms Neville suggested the safest way was to donate to a registered charity or Bendigo Bank’s bushfire appeal fund endorsed by the Victorian government.
“One hundred per cent of that is going to communities,” the minister said.
“My advice is don’t give money over the phone. Do it this way, look up the website, pay online, and do it through the proper processes.”
Those believing they’ve encountered a scam can call the ACCC’s line – 1300 795 995 – or report it on the Scamwatch website, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says.
Two people have been charged with seeking to break into houses amid elevated bushfire danger on the NSW south coast.
A 17-year-old boy was on Sunday allegedly stopped with a screwdriver and bandanna in Bangalee, while a 30-year-old man was on Monday allegedly stopped with a knife, jemmy bar, pliers and other objects in North Nowra.
Both were charged with possessing housebreaking implements, while the man was also charged with knife possession and other offences.
The boy will appear at a NSW children’s court on January 23, while the 30-year-old was granted bail to appear at Nowra Local Court on January 13.
A third man was allegedly stopped in his vehicle in Moruya on Monday and returned a blood alcohol reading of 0.257, five times over the limit.
The 33-year-old was charged with high-range drink driving and trespassing on a Wamban property and will appear at Moruya Local Court on February 7.
NSW Police deputy commissioner Gary Worboys on Tuesday labelled looting a “disgusting” crime and said neither the police nor community would accept it.
Mr Worboys said both uniformed and plain-clothed police officers would in the coming weeks patrol bushfire-affected NSW regions.
“There’s no specific offence for looting but as we know, people’s homes are their castles and particularly in these times of devastation, it really does go against the grain of the Australian people and spirit,” Mr Worboys told reporters.
“People are looking for those simple items that they can convert to money.”
He said there had not yet been reports of livestock theft.
It follows the alleged break-and-enter of a house and theft of a Ford Falcon sedan from the evacuated town of Batlow on Friday.
NSW emergency services minister David Elliott said he’d seek to appeal any criminal sentences for looting he deemed inadequate.
“We don’t live in South Central LA or Syria. We don’t do this to each other. This is the south coast of NSW,” Mr Elliott told reporters.
“I want people to be able to rebuild this state without fear of criminal activity.”