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.
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
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Consumer Direct – 08454 04 05 06
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