For over a year now, air ambulance operators in Britain have struggled to warn the public about a misleading company that claims it is collecting “desperately needed” funds on behalf of local air ambulance services.
The real air ambulance charities and supporters have tried everything in their power to warn people not to donate to the fake charity, but people have continued to give, thinking they are helping keep their much-needed local air ambulances flying. The company seems to be operating all over the country, and no air ambulance services have ever received any funds from them.
The fake charity Air Ambulance Service (AAS), also operating as Air Ambulance Service Trading Company Ltd., misleads well-meaning people by distributing leaflets and collection bags door-to-door. Donators are instructed to leave their unwanted “clean, good quality, reusable” clothing, jewelry, shoes, handbags, belts, and mobile phones in the collection bags for pickup on specified days.
As you can see, the AAS “donation” bags prominently feature the now non-existent website airambulanceservice.org.uk, with “We rely only on your support!” in large, bold letters. To the right is a generic helicopter logo with “Air Ambulance” printed beneath it, which, as officials have pointed out, looks nothing like the logo of any existing air ambulance service. On one of the leaflets, the company used a picture of an emergency helicopter operated by Essex Air Ambulance, further misleading people into thinking they were affiliated with the real air ambulance service.
There is also the message that the charity is “working to towards providing financial assistance to cover or reduce the cost of ground and air ambulance medical transportation.” Yet, in the smallest print of all, it says the company is collecting for profit and is not associated with any local air ambulance service at all. People are urged to call or text pay phone numbers for “membership” information or to report missed bags.
Caught on Tape
A long-awaited breakthrough in the story finally occurred June 3rd, when two unnamed men were caught on video camera collecting the bags.
An employee of Worcester News set two of the bags out at the designated collection spots and waited in a nearby car for the AAS collectors to show up. Two men in a red van eventually showed up to collect the bags. Armed with a video camera, the Worcester News employee approached and confronted the two men about collecting people’s valuable belongings for a non-existent air ambulance charity. Moments later, police showed up to arrest the AAS workers on suspicion of fraud.
Released without Charges
A police spokesman said they had liased with the local Trading Standards officers, who declared that the men were not breaking the law and that no further action should be taken. They were released without charges. Trading regulators pointed to the fact that – even though the leaflets and bags are covered in bold type and pictures representing a fake air ambulance charity – the bags do indicate in the small print that they are collecting the items for their own profit.
“It makes you think, what is the point in trying to stop these people?” said the regional fund-raising co-ordinator for the Midlands Air Ambulance charity.
Yesterday, the local trading regulators confirmed that they would be conducting further investigation into Air Ambulance Service’s practices. The company is now named St. Anthony (Trading Co.) and is based at the same address.
For now, Midlands Air Ambulance and other air ambulance organizations and charities in the UK can only continue to educate locals that the bogus collections have nothing to do with them, and the profits made by selling their donated valuables does not go to a charity of any kind – let alone to local air ambulance services.
In Britain, local air ambulance charities are common, and many air ambulance services hold special fundraising events – such as the Yorkshire Air Ambulance charity that raised over $1,630,000 over the past five years through a recycling campaign. The AAS siphons money away from Britain’s life-saving air ambulances by misrepresenting themselves and making urgent appeals for funds.
Almost a year ago, a 77-year old widow donated more than