Charities across the UK are suffering from the lowest ever number of doorstep donations as scam artists organise bogus doorstop charity collections and criminals steal legitimate donation sacks.
The number of donations received in this way is down by more than half since 2008.
This year doorstop donations made up 18% of total donations to charity shops, compared to 24% in 2011, 40% in 2009 and 52% in 2008, according to research from the Charity Retail Association.
This year's results are the lowest ever recorded. One of the main reasons given is the rise in scam artists running bogus collection services.
We've reported on this kind of scam before and it seems the problem is not going away.
Scam artists post leaflets advertising charity doorstop collections. They then collect these bags of goods on the selected day and as the charity is in fact fake, the conmen steal the goods, robbing genuine charities of them.
How to tell if a doorstop collection is genuine
The reason these types of scam are so successful is because it can be hard to tell the genuine from the fake when it comes to charities.
The first thing to look for is a registered charity number which should be listed on the leaflet. Once you've found this check it on the Charity Commission website or by calling 0845 300 0218 to make sure it's genuine.
Another check to make is to see if the charity is actually named. If there are vague phrases such as 'help for families in need' or 'sick children at Christmas' it's probably fake.
There should be contact details on the leaflet or the bag so check these actually work by testing the website or phone number.
If you're still not convinced go to the charity shop in question and donate your goods by hand. Many charities will also come to your house if you have big, bulky items to donate.
This is the most efficient way to know your charity is benefiting from your unwanted belongings and they're not being given to a scam artist.
Report the criminals
If you suspect a leaflet or a bag to be fraudulent then report it to your local Trading Standards department and the local police.
Suspicious behaviour, such as branded charity bags going into an unbranded van, also needs to be reported so if you see anything like this then ring the police and give as much details as possible.
On the Charity Retail Association website there is also a tool for reporting this kind of criminal activity.