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How to spot a fake charity collector

Andy Stevens / 02 March 2020

Do you know how to spot and avoid bogus charity collectors when you make donations to charities? We share tips to ensure that your charitable donations go to genuine good causes and not into the pockets of scammers and fraudsters.

Charity collection tins
It is illegal to make charity collections from open buckets or other open receptacles

What should you look for if you're approached by a charity collector in the street?

Genuine charity collectors will carry all the necessary official documents relating to their charity.

Check the collector's identity badge and ask to see documentation, including the charity's registration number. Ask to see the collector's permit or licence which they must carry. This should indicate whether or not they are legitimately collecting on that charity's behalf.


What questions should you ask a charity collector?

If somebody is collecting for a charity, it's a fair assessment that they should have detailed knowledge of that charity. Ask them about the charity's fundraising work; where money raised goes to, how much is taken from donations for administration purposes, and how much goes directly to help the charity's beneficiaries.

Ask the collector for details about donating to the charity online instead. This gives you greater security and allows you to take your time at home to do your research and make an informed decision.

It's important to trust your instincts, too. If a charity collector's knowledge seems vague, if they are too pushy, if documents look amateurish, hastily photocopied and contain spelling or grammar errors, or if indeed you have any doubts at all, just walk away.

You don't have to just donate to charity. Find out about six things you can do to help charities, without giving them money. 


What other tell-tale signs should you look for when approached by a charity collector?

Make sure the charity collector's collection bucket is sealed. It is illegal to make charity collections from open buckets or other receptacles. The bucket should also display the charity's name and, more than likely, its registration number.


What should you do if approached by a charity collector on private property, such as in a shop or in a block of flats?

Always check with the manager or owner that the charity collector has permission to be there.


How to check online if a charity is genuine or fake?

If you're approached to make donations from a charity collector in the street or on private property and you're thinking about signing up, it's still wise to go home, go online and do your research first.

The Charity Commission website is your first port of call if you think a collector might be collecting for a fake charity, or fraudulently posing as a collector for a genuine charity.

The Charity Commission registers all charities in England and Wales, so you should search its charity register to find out if it lists the charity in question. Or you can phone 0845 300 0281 during normal office hours.

The regulatory body for charities in Scotland is The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, and in Northern Ireland you should get in touch with The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland.


What details should you give to a charity collector?

If you do decide to sign up to make donations with a charity collector in the street, be extra mindful of the dos and don'ts of giving out any personal information.

If you set up a direct debit, don't give anything more than your bank account details and sort code. Never divulge your PIN number, nor any security codes.

But again, it's still better to take your time and set up payments securely at home, through charities' official websites.


What to do if a charity collector calls at your home?

You have several choices, but always err on the side of caution. A polite 'no thank you' should do, or you could choose not to answer the door, or put up 'No cold callers' sign.

If you do speak to a doorstep charity collector, ask to see their official badge and permit - but don't commit to anything. Once again, check with the official charity itself, either online or over the phone, to see if they are making house calls in your area.

The same applies when charity bags are left on your doorstep or in your letterbox. If you wish to donate, check with the official charity to make sure your gift goes to a legitimate source.

Read our tips to protect yourself from bogus callers.


How to donate securely to charities online

When donating to charities online, apply the same rules you would when doing any online transaction involving your money and personal details.

Only donate through the official website of the charity of your choice, having made sure it's registered with the Charity Commission. Alternatively, donate through a well-known fundraising site, such as JustGiving or the tax-efficient Gift Aid.

Type the full website address of the charity into your web browser. Never click on a secondary link from another source to access a charity's website.

Make sure the payment/donation page is secure; this page's address should begin with 'https' and not 'http' - and it should also include a 'padlock' symbol.

Never make a donation to charities through a money transfer scheme. Also you should never reply to unsolicited emails claiming to be from charities and never click on any links within these emails. Simply delete them and email - or call them on 0300 123 2040 - if you think a charity collection scam might be taking place.

Payroll giving is a tax-efficient and safe way to donate. Find out more. 


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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