The RSPCA has said it "strongly disputes" suggestions in today's Daily Mail newspaper that it deliberately targets elderly or vulnerable people and deceives its supporters in any way.
The newspaper ran a story on its front page this morning claiming that the animal charity has been paying a private company to secretly assess the wealth of supporters and calculate how much they might leave in their wills.
The RSPCA said that although it did seek to understand the make-up of its supporter base, it did not try to determine the value of anyone's legacy.
The Mail highlighted the case of Samuel Rae, an 87-year-old dementia sufferer, who the paper claimed yesterday had lost £35,000 to conmen who had obtained his details from charities.
The paper today said that the RSPCA used a "wealth intelligence services" company, called Prospecting for Gold, to assess how much supporters like Rae might leave in their wills.
Asked to respond to the claims, the charity issued a statement that said: "The support of our donors is of huge importance to us and we strongly dispute any claims that we deliberately target the elderly or vulnerable, or knowingly deceive our supporters in any way."
It said that "legacy predictor modelling" was used by many charities and helped them to understand the make-up of their supporter base, but was not used to determine the value of anyone's legacy.
"Like many charities, the RSPCA tries to understand our supporters in order to help inform our decisions about how best to communicate and build meaningful relationships with them," the statement said.
"It is good practice that the RSPCA – like any charity reliant on donations from the public – plans for the future and forecasts its ongoing financial position. More than 50 per cent of donations to the RSPCA are made through generous legacies, so it is important that such forecasting takes this into consideration."
The statement said that the charity had listened to the broad public concerns raised in recent months and had worked with the Fundraising Standards Board and the Institute of Fundraising on a review of current practice.
"We hope the results of this will reassure the public and rebuild their trust with the charitable sector," it said.