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Trading Standards Swoop on Bogus Charity Collectors – Armed with New Act: 16 February 2007 22/02/2007

Trading standards officers and police in the Midlands have swooped to arrest six alleged bogus charity collectors – hot on the heels of new legislation that makes it easier to prosecute fraudsters.

The arrests – by Solihull trading standards service – follow an investigation into a clothing collection business which issued leaflets giving the impression the proceeds would help poverty-stricken people in Africa.

The six were detained recently under the new Fraud Act, which came into force on 15 January.

“The Act gives trading standards professionals and police more teeth to act when a scam is suspected,” said Ron Gainsford, chief executive of the Trading Standards Institute (TSI).

“We’re delighted that one of the first times it has been used is during the Office of Fair Trading’s Scams Awareness Month – and hope it will blaze a trail for other similar operations to crack down on fraudsters.”

Four men were arrested in Kinghurst, Solihull, on 31 January on suspicion of fraud following information that, the previous day, a leaflet containing information about a fictitious charity in Lithuania had been circulating in the area.  The leaflet also contained a picture of children in Africa.

These four men have been released on bail pending further enquiries.

Then, on 1 February, another two men were arrested in nearby Chelmsley Wood, also on suspicion of fraud.  They had distributed a clothing collection leaflet that contained a number for a real UK charity – but admitted they had no links with this legitimate charity.  They were given police cautions under the Fraud Act.

Sarah Smith, trading standards manager at Solihull Council, said: “The new Act simplifies the law on fraud, making it easier for us to take action.

“For some time now we have been investigating a group who have been issuing some very confusing literature in the area, giving the impression that they are collecting clothing for poor people in Africa.

“Under the former Theft Act we would have had to prove that a victim had been deceived by a defendant’s behaviour and that a gain or loss had been made – but the new Fraud Act takes away that onus.

“The new legislation also makes it an offence to commit fraud by false representation in any form and, if convicted, a defendant faces up to 10 years in jail. It gives us far more flexibility to investigate and successfully prosecute fraudsters in a broad range of activities.”

Consumer Direct, the government funded consumer advice service, is available on 08454 04 05 06 for scams advice.

***ENDS***

 For more information contact TSI press office on 0870 872 9030

 NOTES TO EDITORS

 Neither the former Theft Act or the new Fraud Act apply in Scotland

Trading Standards Institute

The Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.

Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.

TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.

They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.

Consumer Direct – 08454 04 05 06

Consumer Direct is a Government-backed telephone and online consumer advice service which works in partnership with Local Authority Trading Standards.  It provides clear, practical and impartial advice and information to help consumers resolve problems and disagreements with suppliers of goods and services.  Consumer Direct is available from 0800-1830 Monday to Friday and 0900-1300 Saturday, excluding bank and public holidays.  Calls cost a maximum of 4p per minute from a BT landline.  Calls from mobiles or other networks may vary.  Your service provider may charge a minimum cost per call.  The advice and information given is free.

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