An Armagh pensioner has spoken out after he was accosted by a suspected bogus charity collector in a supermarket in the city on Thursday morning.
The man – who did not wish to be named – contacted Armagh I on Friday to alert others of his experience the previous day while shopping in the Lidl store situated in the Spires Retail Park on the Moy Road.
The man said he and his wife were going about their business in the store – they were at the freezer aisle – when “all of a sudden I got this tap on my shoulder”.
He turned around to find a man standing there with a sheet of paper and a clipboard claiming to be collecting for a charity.
“The man said he was collecting for a deaf charity and claimed to be deaf himself,” the man recalled.
“I later spotted this same man outside in the car park, in front of where we had parked, speaking to a woman who was also going about with a clipboard, in and out of shops. He didn’t appear to be deaf to me.”
The man who was approached even questioned staff inside Lidl, given the nature of the incident. Staff, according to the man, didn’t seem to know anything about a charity collection in store.
The man said the pair were “going in and out of shops” and appeared to be approaching vulnerable pensioners, despite having no visible ID.
“I just want to make people aware as it’s quite easy to fall for illegitimate charity collectors and although I knew this was 100% a scam, others might not be so sure. I know of a woman who handed over some money to scammers on Dobbin Street.”
The incident happened at approximately 11am on Thursday morning.
This man contacted the Armagh I office on Friday morning, at which point we placed calls with Lidl and the police.
Later in the afternoon, police confirmed they had arrested five people in Armagh on Thursday in relation to a series of reports across the county and beyond.
Inspector Browne said: “At around 11.30am on Thursday, July 13 police stopped a car in the Victoria Road area of Armagh.
“Following a search of the car, a number of items were seized including clipboards, and subsequently four men, aged 30, 33, 39 and 48, and one woman, aged 30, were arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation. They remain in police custody at this time.
“Reports relating to people claiming to be from a local charity approaching members of the public and asking for money have been received across several areas in Northern Ireland.”
A Lidl spokesperson told Armagh I: “Lidl Northern Ireland support a number of licensed charity partners and have robust processes in place to prevent any unlicensed collections at our stores.
“Where it is brought to Lidl’s attention that any person attempts to organise unlicensed collections at a Lidl store, the matter is investigated thoroughly and reported to the relevant authorities.”
Lookout for scams!
Is the collection for a registered charity? If so, what is the registered charity number? The name and charity number should appear on any material. These can be checked against the online Register available on the Charity Commission website: www.charitycommission.gov.uk
Does the collection only give a registered company number? This only means that the organisation is registered as a business with Companies House, not that it is a charity.
Is a full charity name given? Members of the public should be suspicious of collections for vague causes such as ‘poor children’ or ‘homeless people’.
Is there an address and landline telephone number? If an organisation only provides a mobile phone number, or no number at all, this may mean it does not want to answer questions, or has something to hide.
Can the collector say how much of the donated money will go to the charity and, if they are being paid to fundraise, how much are they receiving? People employed to fundraise on behalf of a charity must be able to say upfront how much of each donation will go to charity and what proportion goes towards their wages.
Suspicious of a charity collection – what should you do?
If someone collecting funds, or a leaflet asking for donations, specifically claims that an organisation is a charity when it is not, then they are breaking the law and the police should be notified immediately. If a fundraiser or their material does not specifically claim that the organisation is a charity, but gives the impression that it is collecting for charity when it is not, they should be reported to the Charity Commission so that we can work with other organisations to combat scams and protect the good reputation of charities.