• fraudstersdiary

Charity Begins at Home

Given my chosen ‘profession’ and the ease with which I have been able to buy designer clothes, I do not feel the emotional connection with certain garments that others clearly do. I have never had to put away £10 a week to save up for a pair of shoes with red soles or sunglasses that appear to consist of two large flat-screen televisions. As a result, my wardrobes are stuffed full of expensive gear that I will never wear again, nor would I miss if I were burgled. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find my go-to sweatshirt and skinny jeans so I thought I would have a clear out.

Having filled 2 bin bags from a tiny section of my ‘overflow’ wardrobe I was shook by (a) how much I have stashed away without ever wearing it, and (b) how much this designer gear must have cost me in total. Don’t get me wrong - this was all bought with other people’s money rather than my own - but clearly the Fashion Police must have been otherwise engaged when I bought some of it.

As I threw the first 2 bin bags into the hallway I noticed a flyer sticking half in/out of the letterbox. Ordinarily these all go directly into my recycling bin (I’m a very green fraudster) but I caught sight of ‘unwanted clothes’ picked out in orange text. I thought ‘it must be an omen’

The flyer was glossy, A5 size and looked very professional; It was headed with the words ‘make world poverty a thing of the past’ and had a photograph of an emaciated child drinking from a dirty cup. It had a Registered Charity number and said that all profits would go towards combating global poverty. It explained that all types of clean clothing was being collected to raise money for hungry children. Just as well, as I’m not convinced my size 12 Gucci loafers would have looked good on him in any case. I felt my heart strings being plucked and decided that rather than load my ill-gotten gains into the back of my Range Rover and double park outside of the local charity shop, I would divert them to this worthwhile cause instead.

I was directed to attach the flyer to any bags of donated clothing so their driver could easily identify it from his van and to leave it out on a given day - Wednesday had been circled on the flyer and that was only 2 days away. By the time Wednesday came I had added another 2 bin bags full of designer gear to the load and placed them outside the communal entrance to my block of flats. I was half-expecting the wrath of the Residents Committee to be immediately unleashed as they frown on anything that might bring down the tone of the neighbourhood. Or more importantly, the value of their already ridiculously expensive flats. I ensured the flyer was visible to anyone from the gravel drive and went back to my flat feeling suitably smug and righteous. After about half an hour I heard the unmistakable sound of a diesel engine and looked out of my window to see a large white van laying down more smoke than the Graf Spee attempting to shake off the Royal Navy.

A bulky guy dressed in jeans and a leather jacket jumped out of the passenger seat and headed towards the bags. He opened the sliding door on the side and threw them all inside, however, rather than jump back in the van, he walked down the side of the block towards the garages and beautifully manicured gardens. Being suspicious I decided to go down and see what he was up to. As I reached the main doors Mr Chunky was approaching the van and it was at this point I recognised his ugly mug. His name was Lukas, a Lithuanian, and he had been quite a successful scammer a few years ago. His ‘thing’ was credit card fraud, however, he had got married and his wife insisted he give this up and start a legitimate business, however, your idea of ‘legitimate’ and theirs might be worlds apart.

Lukas shook me warmly be the hand like a long-lost friend and we exchanged a little banter about the old days. I told him that I thought he was doing a good thing by working for this clothes collection charity and that it might help balance out all the other things he had done. He looked puzzled and then laughed in my face. He said ‘once a fraud guy always a fraud guy’ Lukas explained that he now collects more bags of clothing than he can handle. He delivers them to his wife who operates a warehouse on a small industrial estate just out of town. As they area registered charity, the local council subsidise their business rates and have given them 2 years free rent to attract other businesses to the area.

Lukas's wife and her sister sort the clothes into (1) designer labels that they can sell on online auction sites and/or online classifieds (2) those that are good quality but not designer labels that they can put into a bale for resale in Africa and (3) the remainder that they sell to another company on an adjoining industrial estate that buys clothing by weight only. I asked him how much he was making and he said he was on par with the credit card fraud, and although it required more effort, there was zero chance of being prosecuted.

He diligently paid out a cheque for £100 every month to a global charity against poverty and happily pocketed the rest. When I asked him if he felt bad about denying starving children the proceeds of the donated clothing, he joked that his 6 kids (with another on the way) all needed clothing, mobiles, tablets and games consoles. His state benefits were never going to stretch to buying those things. Working as a ‘volunteer’ for a charity did not affect his benefits so he was literally laughing all the way to the bank. I told him to be careful but he insisted that people regard him and his wife as saints and that some even give them cash donations. No prizes for guessing where that goes!

A few weeks later I saw his van again and he beeped his horn to attract my attention. He was livid. Apparently some ‘crook’ had worked out which areas he collected from on particular days and got to the bags before him. You just can’t trust anyone these days!

This is a very obvious example of someone scamming people into donating clothing for a good cause in the belief it will help others. ‘Despicable!’ I hear you shout in unison. However, before you think it is only the likes of Lukas who are conning you, consider this; Virtually all high streets these days are awash with charity shops. What you may not know is that each of them has a fully paid manager, often a paid deputy manager and some even have paid sales staff. In fact on average, 73p of every pound you spend in a charity shop goes towards the running costs of the shop - including those generous salaries.I’m not sure if I feel any less cheated by one than the other! https://www.independent.co.uk/money/money-charity-shops-and-the-cash-that-wont-reach-the-needy-1276435.html

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