Charity bag crime
When you leave a charity bag on the doorstep, you may assume that your jeans or your top will end up being sold in a charity shop here in Wales.
However, your clothes could also be legitimately sold to other countries for up to a thousand pounds a ton. Whether they are sold here or exported, the money should go to charity, but it's becoming increasingly likely that the bag you leave on your doorstep won't go to a good cause at all.
Simon Jones from Caerphilly Trading Standards is cracking down on illegal collectors in his area. "In the main they are commercial collection companies who pass on very little if any to the charities they purport to have a link with," he explained. "Often these charities are in Eastern European bloc countries and they may not be legitimate anyway."
To get a licence from a local authority, collectors must prove they're working for a genuine charity, but a growing number of unlicensed collectors are pocketing the profits themselves.
Consumers can look out for tell-tale signs on the bags which suggest that a collector may be lining their own pockets. These include using a company number instead of a charity number, there may also be spelling mistakes or a mobile phone number instead of an official helpline.
And charities are also being hit by a more sinister crime - theft. British charities are losing more than £14 million pounds a year when their bags are stolen and it’s a growing problem in Wales.
Now Simon Jones' team is on their tail, with several prosecutions in the pipeline. Recent cases include the arrest of a Lithuanian bag collector who was found with dozens of unlicensed bags in his van, as well as bags which had been stolen from the Salvation Army.
Paul Ozanne, from the Salvation Army Trading Company said, "It's an increasing problem. Last year the Salvation Army clothing collections lost about four to five percent of their total collections - we're now talking about 2,000 tons of clothing and that obviously has a big effect on us.
"My biggest fear is that it will affect confidence of people giving door to door collections. I can only speak for Salvation Army, but if it's a Salvation Army bag it will be a Salvation Army branded van. If it isn't, get the registration number and call the police straight away."
The rest of the confiscated bags were donated to the local Barnardos shop in Bargoed. Manager Judith Voyle said, "It's absolutely wonderful they've brought them to us. A bag of clothes is worth a minimum of £20, so it'll make a tremendous difference. People are giving with a good heart, when it doesn't get to us it's deplorable."
So if you want to make sure your clothes go to a good cause, take them to the charity shop yourself!