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Scams, cons etc

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Misleading and bogus charity clothing collections

On the About us page we've explained that CharityBags was created in response to a particular scam - the proliferation of misleading and bogus "charity" clothing collections.

They're misleading because they give the impression that the proceeds go to a good cause (eg a charity).  But on further investigation, you discover they're wholly (or largely) commercial.  So little or nothing goes to charities.

Many other people have been concerned about this issue too.  For example see :

Scams, cons etc - in general

Cautionary note:  We're not lawyers. What we say below is not authoritative.

On this page we look at scams, cons and other misleading schemes in a general way (and in other fields), in order to shed more light on the issue of misleading 'charitable' clothing collections.

See the Licensing regimes page for a similar approach we've taken with licensing - where we look at licensing in general, in order to shed light on the issue of licensing of clothing collections.


The word 'scam' overlaps with other related terms which are used to criticise - such as 'unsatisfactory', 'unfair', 'misleading', 'con', 'scandalous', 'bogus', 'deception', 'fraud'.  Each of these words tends to have a slightly different meaning.

Some of these words are stronger than others, and some are more specific.  For example 'misleading' tends to imply only that people will be misled by something - and doesn't necessarily imply that the person behind it deliberately attempted to mislead.  See the Definitions page for more on this.

Libel - This question of terminology can be important when describing unsatisfactory situations (such as misleading 'charitable' clothing collections).  Inappropriate use of single word in a newspaper article can lead to the proprietors being sued for libel.


At the heart of a scam is something which is misleading (and may well be deception).  It gives an impression that something is better than it really is.  This can be done by something explicit and direct.  However, often it's done by more subtle means - such as a slight distortion of the truth created by the wording, by a misleading photograph, or by what's not said.

Arguably, with a true scam, the perpetrator knows he's misleading people (although he's unlikely to admit this).  However, our impression is that the word 'scam' is now used merely to indicate that there's a real possibility of this.

Some scams are illegal, (eg they're fraud) and the scammer can be prosecuted.
Others are 100% legal but they're still misleading and unethical.

Scams (whether deliberate or not) tend to exploit human weakness - such as lack of knowledge or naivety.  The groups most affected tend to be the poor, the old and the sick/disabled.

Even reputable, large organisations have been accused of scams - for instance some banks and insurance companies.  Examples include :

See the FCA, FOS, ASA and OFT websites.


The Internet has increased the number of scams - for instance bogus 'phishing' emails asking for your bank details (including passwords).


There are several ways of dealing with a scam or con :

More information on scams, cons etc (links)

1. Links to our pages

For more information on scams (and how to avoid them), see the Consumer issues page.  This gives details of organisations and websites such as Citizens Advice, Citizens Advice consumer service, trading standards, Which?, BBC Watchdog, 'You and Yours' and Rip-Off Britain.

See the Definitions page for more on the definitions of 'scam', 'con' and related words.

See the page on the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Snowman (off a charity Christmas card)

See the Charity cards page regarding poor-value "charity" Christmas cards sold by some commercial retailers - many people would describe this as a scam.  With these cards, the donation given to the charity by the retailer can be as little as 2% of the price charged for the cards.

Telephone: (c) freeimages.co.uk

See the Non-geographic telephone rates page for details of the charging regime for 0870, 0871 and similar numbers.  These numbers are considered by many to be unfair and misleading.  0870/0871 numbers cost callers around £2,000 million annually in the UK.

2. Links to other websites

Citizens Advice consumer service  
Scams covered include pyramid selling, doorstep selling and premium rate telephone numbers.

There's a helpful section on bogus charity clothing collections - including a picture of a 2-page leaflet, alerting people to the problem of bogus clothing collections, entitled "Give with care".  There's also a downloadable PDF version of it.

An independent not-for-profit website - which deserves to be better-known.
It includes a section entitled "Charity scams: household collections" (dealing with house-to-house clothing collections).