Falkirk charities urge thieves to just pack it in ...

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Ruthless rag and bone merchants have been swiping bags of donations meant for other charities and making a tidy profit from them.

The British Heart Foundation, which has branches in Falkirk and Grangemouth, is one of the charities which has been repeatedly targeted by people posing as volunteer doorstep collectors - even adding a sign to their van which looks almost identical to the Foundation’s logo.

Falkirk East MP Michael Connarty witnessed a group of people, who identified themselves as Lithuanians, unload a number of bags belonging to legitimate UK charities, remove the clothing and repack them for distribution elsewhere.

He is now fighting to raise awareness of this crime and asking residents to be aware of who is actually picking up the donations they leave outside.

Mr Connarty said: “Stealing pre-used clothing put out in a bag that is the property of another charity is a crime. I want these thefts to stop happening. If people make a conscious decision to put clothes for recycling in a profit making firm’s bags and not in UK charities’ bags then that is their choice.

“However, £75 per ton of clothing is a far less valuable donation to charitable causes than giving good pre-used clothing for sale in a charity shop.”

Arlene McKenna, manager of British Heart Foundation’s Grangemouth shop, said the charity’s clothing banks had even been raided.

She added: “This is being done by rag and bone merchants out to line their own pockets - they are taking the items meant for us and then filling their own bags with them.

“It’s now so rife it’s effecting our stock levels. We have told the police, but it’s hard to catch them in the act.”

Charity shops have been forced to adapt and change their operating procedures.

Arlene said: “Our drivers are having to go out earlier and earlier in the morning. Some people leave their bags out overnight, so these bogus charities have sometimes been out at 11 p.m. or midnight taking the bags from people’s doorsteps.

“Some donators have reported it when they notice their bags have been taken by someone other than our usual driver. We can also come and pick up donations on request if people give us a call to arrange a time.”

If you have any concerns about charity bag pick-ups call British Heart Foundation shops in Grangemouth or Falkirk on (01324) 489447 or (01324) 621697.