The Huddersfield Daily Examiner has exposed a charity scam by tracking a mobile phone sewn into the lining of a coat that was sold for profit, rather than being donated to poor people in Third World countries.
By tracking the phone through a website, the paper revealed the coat, which had been donated to what appeared to be a charity, Help and Support Ltd, had actually been sold off for a profit in Eastern Europe.
Reporter Adrian Sudbury had heard of such organisations which had made national headlines, and decided to follow an item of clothing to find out where it ended up.
He told Press Gazette: “At first I wondered whether we could have a tracker, but when I went to a spy shop and the man there told me the device would cost around a grand, which is out of the Examiner’s budget.
“He suggested I track a mobile phone through a website followus.co.uk, which is a really helpful tool for journalists. You just have to click on your mobile phone number on the website and it shows you within a 50-yard radius on a map where the phone is.
“It was a great team effort in the office. People donated all their old clothes, and another colleague helped me stitch the phone in the lining of a waterproof coat.” By following the phone, the Examiner found the coat was taken to Leeds to what it believed to be a holding depot, which could have been part of a much bigger organisation. It was then taken to the south and ferried to France, where the tracking signal was lost.
Sudbury had envisaged this could happen and had written his contact details on the back of the phone on the off-chance someone would find it.
Sudbury explained: “It was a long shot, but it paid off because someone eventually called me. I had a bizarre conversation on Sunday with a woman from the Ukraine who said ‘I find your phone’ and it was a great moment. She told us she had bought the coat from a market and it was case closed.”
The exposé made the Examiner’s front-page splash on Tuesday.
Sudbury has tried to contact the charity via email, but it has not replied. He says every time he looks for the charity on Companies House, similar organisations appear on a regular basis, but are quickly dissolved.