BREAST cancer sufferers in Essex are being robbed of vital funds by unscrupulous foreign gangs running a fake clothing collection scam.
And both Essex Trading Standards and Breakthrough Breast Cancer Trust have warned residents not to fall for this elaborate fraud.
The collection scam was uncovered by journalist Peter Faulkner, who runs Who Can You Trust, set up specifically to help elderly residents in Essex safeguard themselves from all forms of fraud at the doorstep, on the phone, on the internet and in the mail.
WCYT, based in Benfleet, received a leaflet this week claiming to be a clothes collection in support of Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity and asking residents to leave clothing parcels out for collection.
Peter investigated the organisation involved, Clothman Limited, because the only contact details it gave were a mobile phone number – usually a sign that the organisation may be operating illegally.
He discovered four things:
That a number of residents reported receiving the leaflets from Clothman Ltd which claimed a donation of £100 will be made to Breakthrough Breast Cancer for every tonne of clothes collected. The leaflets feature a pink ribbon symbol and Breakthrough’s registered charity number.
That Clothman Limited are running the scam nationwide and that Trading Standards all across the country have now been alerted and asked to issue warnings about the gangs.
The company, registered at Cardigan Terrace Heaton, Newcastle Upon Tyne, was dissolved in April this year so it is also trading illegally.
And the mobile number on their leaflets is a private householder, who is fed up with the calls she keeps getting.
Peter's investigations have brought a swift response from both Essex Trading Standards and Breakthrough Breast Cancer, who hit back this week.
Chris Askew Director of Fundraising at Breakthrough Breast Cancer says: "Breakthrough Breast Cancer does not receive funding from Clothman Limited and we are saddened that the suggestion of a charity donation is playing a part in this scam.
"Breakthrough would encourage people in Essex who want to donate unwanted clothing and household items to take them directly to a charity shop, as this will ensure that the full value of the donations will go to a legitimate cause.
“There are a number of ways that people can support Breakthrough's life-saving work towards a future free from the fear of breast cancer and these can be found on our website breakthrough.org.uk."
Essex Trading Standards responded to the scam by saying: “We wish to warn all local residents to be aware of any leaflets they receive through their letterboxes which imply that they are collecting clothing for charity.
“The leaflets ask people to donate clothes often feature the phrase ‘We Urgently Need Clothing’, which could lead householders into thinking that this scheme is a charitable clothing collection. However, in a number of cases these companies are selling the goods purely for profit.
“We would advise residents to read the information on the leaflets very carefully, as there often disclaimers in the small print that say that the clothes will not be donated to charitable causes.
A genuine charity collection will give a Charity Commission number which can be checked by calling 0845 300 0218.
If residents do want to donate clothes we would advise them only to use the collection bags which are distributed by recognised charities. Alternatively you can take your items directly to a local charity shop. For further advice contact Consumer Direct on 0845 404 0506.”