Fraudsters threaten donations for county’s air ambulance

A WNAA helicopter

A WNAA helicopter

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The Air Ambulance Service (TAAS) is calling on its supporters to be wary of rogue collectors posing as the charity.

After reports of hoax collectors, the charity is worried vital income could be lost as a result of companies which carry out fraudulent activities and try to trade on the charity’s name and reputation.

Worried about the effect bogus clothing collections will have on its donations at this time of year, chief executive Andy Williamson said: “Christmas donations of money and clothing are crucial to our service and yet we now have to worry that criminals are distributing bogus bags that try to fool people into thinking they are giving to us when they are not.”

The charity has recently received several reports of a hoax charity, simply calling themselves “Air Ambulance Service”, sending out collection leaflets nationwide and encouraging people to donate to them.

These hoax leaflets ask people to donate unwanted items such as clothing, and provide a phone number and website address but do not include a registered charity number. The phone number provided is no longer in use.

The company originally responsible for distributing these leaflets was caught out and closed down by the High Court over two years ago.

The company’s directors were subsequently prosecuted.

At the time, it was believed that more than £1m was extorted from the public by rogue collectors claiming to be from air ambulance charities.

However, these leaflets appear to be in circulation once again, with reports of deliveries to addresses throughout England.

The Air Ambulance Service would like to make it very clear that this “Air Ambulance Service” is a hoax charity and, despite adopting a very similar name, is in no way affiliated with “The Air Ambulance Service”.

The misleading leaflets have an impact on the charity’s recycling operation and public image.

Mr Williamson added: “As a charity, we are extremely concerned that this will affect our legitimate collections.

“We would encourage everyone to please check the bags and make sure they support a true air ambulance charity.

“Criminal activities like this put people off from donating which, particularly at Christmas time, can be devastating for a small charity like ours.”

TAAS is the umbrella organisation for two Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS): Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance (WNAA) and Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA).

They also run The Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA), a national charity which transfers critically ill children and babies from hospitals to paediatric intensive care units across England and Wales.

The charity receives no Government funding, relying entirely on public support to keep its helicopters flying and its crew saving lives on a regular basis.

It operates every day of the year, including Christmas Day, and needs to raise more than £3m every year to keep each of its services running.

TAAS is currently in discussion with the police and Trading Standards about this new wave of rogue leaflets.

TAAS’s collection bags state which charity the collections are going to and also include the charity’s registration number.

For more information call 08454 130999, or to see an example of what their collection bags look like, go to www.theairambulanceservice.org.uk/get-involved/recycling/clothing-bags.

To make a donation to TAAS, call the above number or go to www.theairambulanceservice.org.uk/donate.