Don't be conned by Helpmates warns MP

HOUSEHOLDERS have been warned not to be taken in by a charity scam which "takes advantage of people's good natures."

A company called Helpmates Limited has been putting flyers through letterboxes asking for donations of clothes, shoes and other items which can be left on doorsteps and then sent to the Third World.

Although not explicitly claiming to be a charity, concerns have been raised that the company's literature might make people think they are giving to a charitable organisation.

Its flyers state that Helpmates "provides people in Third World countries with clothes for their families they can afford. It provides jobs in Third World countries. God will reward for your good hearts."

Genuine charities and East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson have expressed concern about how the company operates, warning people that firms such as Helpmates sell the clothes on for a profit, stating that there is no evidence that people in the Third World benefit.

Ms Swinson has previously raised the issue at Westminster, and charities say that Helpmates and similar companies affect their own genuine appeals for clothes.

They say that such companies often deliberately make collections on days when real charities are going door to door, in order to steal clothing donations which people have left on their doorsteps.

Ms Swinson says she was recently contacted by a constituent living on Mugdock Road, Milngavie. The constituent said: "We received the leaflet through the letterbox about three weeks ago. I was suspicious about some of the wording, and I Googled 'Helpmates'.

"My suspicions were confirmed, and I noted that Jo had been involved in a debate on the subject. My feeling was that in the current economic climate when charities are reporting a steep decline in donations, it seems unjust that a bogus "charity" are creaming off goods from worthwhile and genuine charities."

The UK government has printed leaflets which have been distributed door-to-door in England and Wales warning people of the problem, but Ms Swinson says that the Scottish Government has failed to act.

Now she has written to community safety minister Fergus Ewing demanding action.

She said: "Not only does this practice take advantage of people's good and charitable natures, it also targets charities and those would otherwise benefit from their work, including some of society's most vulnerable people.

"Constituents are still contacting me to say that they're receiving requests from Helpmates, and more must be done to ensure that people know that this is not a charity, this is theft."

Helpmates Limited was unavailable for comment, with the phone number given on its flyers continually ringing out.