Bogus collectors con Sunderland children’s charity out of cash

Viv Watts, Chief Executive of Hope4Kidz, the Sunderland charity has been the victim of bogus collectors.
Viv Watts, Chief Executive of Hope4Kidz, the Sunderland charity has been the victim of bogus collectors.
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DISTRAUGHT charity chiefs today told how bogus collectors have been conning money from people.

Viv Watts, chief executive of Hope 4 Kidz, said two phoney collectors had been collecting in Asda, Pennywell, and taking money in the charity’s name.

Police are now involved and have launched a probe.

Mrs Watts said: “I’m absolutely gutted.

“We organised a party in Passion, Sunderland, at the weekend and we use money from collections to fund things like that.

“It is essential to us, and people doing things like this is taking away from the beneficiaries, the children, who so desperately need the money.”

Mrs Watts, who has worked for the charity since it began in 2007, said: “They were collecting in Asda, and when they were questioned by staff they scarpered.”

“The staff had gone to make a phone call, I think to ring the charity and check they were legitimate, as I don’t think they had the charity registration number on the stickers they had had made up.”

The bogus collectors were spotted in the store some weeks ago, but Mrs Watts was only recently made aware and contacted police.

A spokesman said: “At just before 11.30am on Friday, December 7, police received a report of a possible fraud regarding a charity collection at Asda Pennywell.

“Further inquiries into the incident will be conducted.”

In 2009 Hope 4 Kidz helped catch bogus collectors- who were taking money in the name of Help for Heroes- who police believe had managed to rake in around £45,000.

Mrs Watts said: “They had been collecting money around the Stadium of Light on Boxing Day.

“People were saying that they had already given money to charity so we that knew something was wrong, as we knew we were the only street collectors in the area that day, so we called the police.”

Hope 4 Kidz is a national charity based in Pennywell, that has helped more than 15,200 children in its five year history.

Mrs Watts added: “A little charity like mine can’t survive if they take the money we would have collected, and we help so many children with that money.

“We have Christmas parties, family fun weekends; all sorts for children in the area, mainly Sunderland, and beyond.”

Mrs Watts said anyone with concerns about any collectors should not hesitate to check their identification, and even get in touch with the charity directly to ensure they are legitimate.

She said: “If anyone has any concerns about collectors ask them for their ID badge and check it has a charity registration number.

“If you are not satisfied, contact the charity and ask if they have collectors at the venue.

“The collectors had very convincing stickers to hand out to donators, but they did not have a charity registration number on them, and I think this is what highlighted the staff to the fact they were bogus.”

Anyone with any information should contact police on 101, ext 69191.

Twitter: @Monica_Turnbull