Fraudsters in Vietnam are taking advantage of the credibility of local charitable organizations to profit from their benefactors.
In accordance with the law, fraudulent behavior involving local charities will be charged with property appropriation, with life in prison being the highest penalty.
The Ho Chi Minh City based Tinh Thuong (Love) Foundation, a charitable group famous for their Nu Cuoi (Smile) restaurants, recently reported a fake website had been created using their name.
According to Vu Hong Ly, the fund’s coordinator, the bogus webpage, named donglong.vn, copied the logo and content of Tinh Thuong Foundation’s real website but presented a different bank account for donors to wire money in support of their cause.
It also encourages benefactors to offer their assistance by texting a number that cost messengers VND15,000 (US$0.68) per message, Ly continued.
Ly expressed her concern that donors might mistakenly wire their donation to the wrong people, resulting in a loss of money and credibility to the group.
The foundation’s operators have filed a report to the municipal Department of Police and posted warnings on their official website, tuthientinhthuong.org.
According to Nguyen Huu The Trach, a Vietnamese lawyer, forging the online information of individuals and organizations is against the law and could carry fines between VND20 million ($900.6) and VND30 million ($1,350).
Regarding the case of the Tinh Thuong Foundation, Le Trung Phat, another legal practitioner, says that scammers can be criminally charged with fraud and property appropriation.
Depending on the severity of the violation, offenders sentencing could include 20 years in prison or even a life sentence, Phat elaborated.
Value of the appropriated property and identities of the victims are the two main factors which will determine the criminal responsibility of fraudsters, the lawyer continued.
Phat stated that operators of the Tinh Thuong Foundation should contact their benefactors to figure out the number of people who have been scammed as well as the total value of appropriated asset.
Such information should be attached to the report to support the police investigation and determine punishments for the con artist.
According to the lawyers, it is recommended to conduct careful research on charitable organizations before performing any transaction, especially via online methods.
Benefactors should pay extra caution when wiring their money to a personal bank account.
A reliable webpage will contain information regarding the license and registration and contact details of its managers and founders, the legal practitioners added.