The Trading Standards Institute is set to launch a new online resource designed to clarify the law around charity bag fraud and theft.
Speaking at the Charity Clothes Collection Symposium, a meeting convened by the Fundraising Standards Board and the Institute of Fundraising about charity bag fraud and theft, Andy Foster, operations director at the TSI, said the Enforcement Toolkit was designed to help police and trading standards officers tackle the crime.
Foster said the toolkit analysed applicable legislation in a variety of common scenarios, such as bags being posted through doors that claimed to be raising money for a charity when in fact they are not, and would clarify how offences could be dealt with.
"Lack of clarity in the legislation that applies has often made it difficult for trading standards to take action," said Foster. "We have now stepped in to clarify the law with the help of Nigel Jones QC and have created a handy enforcement toolkit for trading standards practitioners to use.
"We are confident that it is going to make a real difference in the fight against crime, ultimately improving consumer confidence, which has been dented by bogus collections."
He said the toolkit would be available online from Monday but would be password-protected for the enforcement community so that criminals could not read it and discover loopholes.
Detective Inspector Amanda Lowe also gave an update on the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau’s work investigating charity bag fraud. She said there were about "three or four Mr Bigs out there" who were coordinating the fraudulent behaviour.
"There are definite connections between the gangs," she said. "We think this is the tip of the iceberg."
She said that one of the main intelligence gaps the NFIB still had was where the money made from the collections was going.
Michael Lomotey, business manager at the clothing collection agency Clothes Aid, who also gave a presentation yesterday, said it had a list of about 280 illegal bag collection gangs.