Charity shop donations are being stolen from doorsteps at a "record" rates as the price of textiles soars and thieves look to make money during the recession.
Many charities have seen takings leap as shoppers look for a cheaper alternative to High Street stores but donations have plummeted, with theft contributing as a factor.
The Children's Society estimated that one in 10 filled donation bags are being swiped by crooks from doorsteps before charity workers can collect them. The PDSA said the number of bags stolen from doorsteps had "more than doubled" in the last six months compared to the same time last year and the British Heart Foundation said theft was at a "record level".
Ken Blair, Chief Executive of BHF Shops, said: "We believe this is the tip of the iceberg. For every call reported we believe there are another 20 that go unreported. There has been an increased number of reports of bogus van collectors operating in the UK. These collectors are working for commercial gain, with none of the proceeds going to charity.
Taking bags that have been left out for our charity is akin to robbing people with heart conditions of a better quality of life." Mr Blair said the charity was receiving between five and 10 calls a week regarding donation bag theft compared to one or two a month at the same time last year.
Charities have urged the public to contact them directly if they want to make donations securely or to take them directly to their shops. The public can also ask collectors for identification.