FAQs: Bogus collectors
Please click on the questions to reveal the answers.
- What are charity bag collections?
Charity shops use house to house collections to collect clothing which they then sell in their shops. They will usually put a bag through the door of householders to ask for donations of unwanted clothing, and come back to collect it a few days later. This is legitimate activity which helps charity shops raise hundreds of millions of pounds for good causes every year.
- What is a bogus collector?
Bogus charity bag collectors operate in two main ways. They steal charity bags from legitimate charities by taking them from the doorstep before the charity has a chance to collect, or they put misleading and fraudulent bags through the door which pretend to be charitable.
They operate across the UK, duping the public and reducing the income going to charity. The City of London police estimates that this activity costs charities £50 million every year. The Charity Retail Association thinks this is likely to be an underestimate, as it is so difficult to measure this kind of theft.
Bogus collectors primarily work in organised criminal gangs, which sell the clothing abroad for profit. Research into this activity has found that the gangs are also involved in other serious criminality, including trafficking, violent crime and fraud.
- I’ve received a bag through the door that looks like a legitimate collection, but I'm not sure if it is. How can I tell?
Is there a registered charity number?
The registered charity number on the bag can be checked with the Charity Commission website or by calling 0845 300 0218.
Is the charity actually named?
Be wary of vague wording that just says ‘families in need’ or ‘sick children at Christmas’.
Does the leaflet or bag give contact details?
Always read the small print and check contact details on the bag - often website addresses and phone numbers on bogus bags don’t work. The absence of a phone number may mean the collectors do not want to answer questions and may be an indication that the cause may not be genuine.
I’m still not sure. What should I do?
If in doubt, always take your donations directly down to the charity shop. That way, you can be sure that 100 per cent of the profit will go straight to a good cause. If donations are bulky or you have mobility problems, some charity shops will come and collect your items on request, so call and check. You can find contact details for your nearby charity shops at our store locator.
- Can bogus collectors be reported?
Yes, it is really important to report bogus collections so that we can understand where this is going on and take action.
If you’ve had a fake leaflet or bag through the door, you should report this to the Trading Standards department in your local council and to the local police.
If you’ve seen bags being stolen, or a suspicious collection of bags of donations – e.g. charity branded sacks going into a non-charity van – you should ring the local police, giving as much information as possible.
You can also contact your Local Authority to check whether the collection has been licensed, as all house-to-house collections by or for charities should be.
In addition, you can also help us gather intelligence by logging all bogus activity online using our:
Updated: 4 October 2012