At least two charities are believed to have paid thousands of pounds to a publishing company for magazine advertising space that did not exist, a Third Sector investigation has found.
The Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation said it paid £1,000 to Maxhill Media Publishers to place a voucher booklet in Saga magazine in July. But the charity said that the vouchers never ran in the magazine and a spokeswoman for Saga told Third Sector it did not send out a voucher booklet with its magazine and had never commissioned Maxhill to sell its products.
The charity later received its money back after becoming suspicious and complaining.
The foundation said it was also offered the chance by Maxhill to advertise in a similar voucher booklet for Women’s Institute members.
But a spokesman for the WI told Third Sector that its advertising was sold through another company and it had previously issued a "cease and desist" letter to Maxhill after being alerted that it was claiming to sell advertising on the WI’s behalf.
Sue Dixon, the legacy coordinator at the Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation, said she had experienced sleepless nights over Maxhill’s actions. "It disappoints me so much that someone can behave with such a lack of integrity and honesty, and that they would do this to anyone, not just charities," she told Third Sector.
The lifeboat charity the RNLI said it had paid an unspecified sum to Maxhill for an advert in Good Housekeeping magazine, due to run in May 2018. However, no adverts have ever run and Hearst, the publisher of Good Housekeeping, has said it does not sell advertising through Maxhill.
An RNLI spokesman told Third Sector: "We are shocked to learn that the advert did not appear as expected in Good Housekeeping magazine. Our legal team is now looking at what our next course of action should be."
He declined to say how much the RNLI had paid, but adverts in the magazine normally cost several thousand pounds.
Hearst has placed a statement on its website saying that Maxhill used "the trusted name of Good Housekeeping" without its permission and the two companies are not in any way connected. The statement adds that it is working with the police to "identify and prosecute those responsible for this scam".
Third Sector has made repeated requests to Maxhill for comment but it has not responded.