Police forces in England and Wales recorded 270 reports of alleged charity fraud in the final three months of 2013, according to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre.
It is the first time such nationwide data has been available, after the roll-out of Action Fraud reporting to all forces in England and Wales.
Of the 270 reports, 35 related to suspects alleging to represent armed forces or war veterans charities, according to Action Fraud, with 29 of those using the "heroes" theme.
Other significant trends include people allegedly claiming to represent cancer patients (in particular Macmillan), children’s charities (in particular the NSPCC) and natural disaster recovery and international aid efforts.
A spokesman for Action Fraud said he did not have figures immediately available on how many of these reports of fraud resulted in convictions. Many of the cases are likely to have not yet concluded.
In the year to September 2013, Action Fraud recorded 483 cases of alleged charity fraud and 20 fraudulent applications for grants from charities, although this data does not reflect the full national picture because it does not cover all police forces over the whole year.
Action Fraud became the responsibility of the City of London Police on 1 April after the closure of the National Fraud Authority. It will continue to work with the Charity Commission and City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.
A spokesman for Action Fraud said: "Having this central collection point for fraud and cyber crime reporting and analysis enables a much clearer national picture on the main issues and threats from this type of criminality to emerge, and allows seemingly unrelated incidents from around the country to be linked through analysis, which assists in identifying networks of criminals to assist the investigations of law enforcement agencies."
Commander Steve Head, national coordinator for economic crime at City of London Police, said: "I feel very strongly that those criminals who prey on funding for charities undermine the trust and respect that people in this country have for those who work so hard to raise this money and, in a time when resources are stretched, these charities need this cash more than ever.
"I urge anyone who has information about a suspected charitable fraud to report it to Action Fraud so that it can be reviewed by our expert team within the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. It is only by having this vital intelligence that we can track down the criminals behind these scams."
Estimates of the total cost of fraud to the UK charitable sector vary widely – the National Fraud Authority said it was £150m in the year to March 2012, down from £1.1bn the previous year, while a report earlier this year from the accountancy firm BDO put the figure at £1.65bn.