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Giving to charity shows the best side of people - their selfless choice to give generously without expecting anything in return. So it's particularly appalling to hear of cases where that generosity has been abused by people using this selfless act as an opportunity to rip people off.

One recent terrorism case revealed that the plotters had funded their crimes by doing just that. So how can you spot a bogus charity collector?


Fakes

The case last week against three would-be-terrorists revealed that they had raised £13,000 to fund their crimes by claiming to be collecting for charity. They are not the first, back in August last year, two UK terrorists were found to have taken a similar approach.

Michelle Russell, Head of Investigations and Enforcement at the Charity Commission said: "It is abhorrent that people abuse the name and reputation of registered charities to trick the public into thinking their money will go to the charity and be used to help people in need. It is always unacceptable when individuals abuse the good name of charity, and the high trust the public hold charities in for their own purposes."

The National Fraud Authority estimates that fraud against the charity sector costs £1.3 billion a year.

Find the fakes

There is always a risk in these cases that it puts us off giving to charity altogether, but there are alternatives.

There are ways to check the credentials of charity collectors: two in five people wouldn't dream of asking questions of someone who is collecting for charity, but the Charities Commission is encouraging us to to just that.

People collecting money for a genuine charity must carry ID and documents from the charity confirming they are collecting legitimately. Ask to see these documents and check the details.

If they are collecting regularly, you can also check these are authorised collections by approaching the charity direct and asking. Their contact details will be in your local phone book or on the charity's website.

You can also contact your local authority or police station to ask whether the collector has been given a licence to collect.

Online

If you are contacted by email you need to be very wary, because it's easy to be ripped off. Poor grammar and spelling can be a sign that something is not right. Any email or documentation will also need to include the charity's number - contact the Charities Commission on 0845 300 0218 to check if this is genuine.

It's also worth steering clear of any email including a link to a form where you can fill in your debit or credit card details.

And if you want to be completely secure in your giving, it's worth getting in touch directly with the charity and making a donation that way - either by paying online or over the phone, or by handing in donations to a local charity shop. It may mean going to a little more trouble, but it will mean you are protected.

It's a lot to ask someone who is already giving selflessly, but it's vital if we are to clamp down on bogus collectors without harming the livelihoods of vital charities.

As Ceri Edwards, Director of Policy and Communications at the Institute of Fundraising says: "It's important that criminal actions like the ones highlighted this week should not diminish or discourage the efforts of the millions of honest volunteers fundraisers that make such a difference to so many."