SHOPPERS have been told to think hard before giving money to people apparently collecting for charity in Southend High Street.

Southend Council issued the alert after the Echo discovered an unregistered charity collector seeking donations to “help the homeless”.

Under the law, charity collectors have to have a licence from the council.

Religious and political groups can set up stalls, but even they need a permit if they raise cash for charity.

Carl Robinson, who is responsible for issuing licences in the borough, said: “We operate a street collection permit scheme, which is aimed at registered charities.

Southend Standard:

Sign: Helping the homeless?

“The scheme exists to bring some control to charity collections and ensure registered charities get a fair chance to collect for their organisations. If someone persisted in collecting without a permit or speaking to us, we would advise them of our scheme and encourage them to make an application.

“While we have no powers to move them on, we could, potentially, prosecute.”

The collector we spotted was posing as a “living statue” and seeking donations for the homeless. His sign read: “This is 4 the homeless people and any donation will be welcome received.”

When pressed about on exactly who would benefit from donations, he was reluctant to say.

Southend Standard:

No licence: The living statue

The council later confirmed the man was not licensed.

In recent times adherents to the Hare Krishna faith have been seen handing out books and soliciting donations “to help the poor” near Burger King’s High Street branch.

When asked where the money would go, one of them, who gave the name, Govinda Hari Das, provided a flyer withawebsite address written in Hungarian.

They claimed theywere only giving out books, but it later transpired theywere also seeking donations to a Hungarian project called Food for Life. Again they had no licence.

The council issued 87 charity collection permits between April 2013 and March 2014, each allowing collections on specific dates.

A council spokesman said: “Police and council staff have identified people collecting without permits before, but they usually just move on, so records have not been kept. A registered charity will have a number, which can be checked, and will also only be able to collect in the High Street if they have a licence from the council.

“We would urge people to check they are dealing with a registered charity before donating.”