Saturday, August 11, 2007


Lowest of the Low

I had to make a shopping trip from the office on Friday. Just round the corner. But I didn't come back with doughnuts as I did on Thursday. Nor did I return with a selection of ice-creams as I did a couple of times last summer.

I came back to the office with a number of short lengths of chain and little padlocks.
Before you get any ideas, the chains were not for my personal use or any of my colleagues. No, I had been sent out to purchase the chains and padlocks because last week we gave the local Starbucks a couple of collecting tins. This week, they wanted more. And a replacement one as after less than a week in
situ, someone had snipped the cord handle that had been looped round the till and scarpered with our charity's tin and money.

To put it in context, the last time I emptied and counted a tin from a counter, the contents totalled £39.16 if my memory serves me correctly, and this was after two years sat on the bar of a central London Italian restaurant. After five or six days on a Starbucks counter, there was probably around three quid in it, made up principally of 5p pieces.

I really don't understand the thought-process of stealing a charity collecting tin. Maybe I should just accept it as part of central London life, and start asking retailers who request a collecting tin what the approximate distance is between their till and counter so I can get the chain length correct. But taking a tin whose cost to replace is greater than the contents? And which won't even cover the cost of one hit of almost any street drug?

It's just quite sad really, and not the first time I've encountered people attempting to steal cash from a charity. The other incident was a little more sophisticated, and fortunately I spotted it. After enquiring about making a donation and being directed to our website, the fraudsters sent the following email to us, offering a
-----Original Message-----
Ashley Blair []
13 March 2007 12:59
Re: Donating to XXX

Hello David,

Thanks for your e-mail, I will like to bring it to your notice that my company actually reach a profit measure it has never reached in the past years and in this case, our board of directors decide to make donations to charity organisation and your organisation happens to be one of the organisations we voted for to donate to ok.

Moreover, we are willing to make this donations via cahier's cheque ok.So get back to me asap with the name in attention and address in which the cheque will be forwarded to so that our accounting department will issue your check out asap.
I shall await your swift response.

Kind Regards,
Ashley Blair.

Sounds great. Unfortunately a quick search brought up the following pages about cashier cheque fraud:

It's a well-known eBay scam in which large sums of money are dangled in front of victims who then have to make payments elsewhere after an apparent 'overpayment' which never existed.

Sure enough, after a bit of toing and froing over addresses and who to make the cheque payable to, we received the following:

From: Ashley Blair []
Sent: 15 March 2007 13:32
To: David

Hello David,
How are you doing today, I will like to bring it to your notice that the cheque has been issued out in your name to arrive your location at least next week ok. But there was a little mix up in the amount issued out to you. Actually, Our company is donating to 2 organisations like i said in my first e-mail and the budget is to spend 2,500GBP ok. Mistakingly our Account Manager issued out the whole amount of 2,500GBP in your name to your organisation which is suppose to be 1,000GBP to you.

In this case, I will like you make refunds of 1,500GBP via Western Union Money Transfer to the other charity orgarnisation in West Africa as soon as you receive the cheque and have it cleared ok. You will have to deduct Western Union charges from the 1,500GBP and send the rest to the name and address I will be providing in the meantime.

I shall await your swift response confirming that you got this e-mail and that you are ok with the terms ok.

Sorry for any inconvinience.

Thanks for your anticipated co-operation.

Kind Regards,
Ashley Blair.

I didn't send any more emails to 'Ashley'

So the question is: Is it a more serious to steal from the beneficiaries of a charity by mugging them or by stealing a collecting tin? Is it more despicable to try to defraud an individual of limited means or a charity with an annual turnover in the millions of pounds per annum? Discuss.

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