Fraudsters are cashing in on the goodwill of the British public by flogging sham poppy merchandise in the run up to Remembrance Day this Sunday, Nov 11.
Each year many of us make a small donation to the Royal British Legion’s (RBL) charity Poppy Appeal, which raises money for the families of military service men and women who have lost their lives fighting overseas.
The institution also puts money towards surviving veterans and those currently serving. Paper poppies are worn in remembrance of past conflicts, with this year marking the centenary of the First World War’s armistice. RBL has registered for intellectual property rights for its poppies to prevent counterfeiting.
However, one hundred years on from the Great War, RBL and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), part of the government department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, have warned your donations could be lining the pockets of criminals.
Both organisations are now both working with the police to clamp down on the illegal sale of counterfeit merchandise such as poppy-themed scarves, jewels, pins and brooches, which are sold to unsuspecting members of the public in the mistaken belief their money is going to a good cause.
The police’s intellectual property crime arm has said it is now targeting suspected sellers of counterfeit items. Last year Border Force officers at the port town of Tilbury intercepted a shipment of sham poppy merchandise worth around £150,000. Smaller quantities were also intercepted being brought in by air freight via Heathrow Airport.
The IPO confirmed that all counterfeit poppy merchandise seized so far has been imported from various destinations abroad, after the problem emerged in 2017.
Sam Gyimah, Minister of State, said people buying poppies this year needed to be vigilant and look out for the approved RBL logo toensure their purchases are genuine and approved.
“It is truly shocking that anyone would target and exploit one of Britain’s most cherished charities and take advantage of public support for our armed forces,” he said. “Together we can ensure donations go to the people they are intended for, by only supporting approved merchandise.”
Claire Rowcliffe of RBL urged people to only to buy from “trusted volunteers”, the legion’s online poppy shop or from a legitimate corporate partner of the charity.
“It is a sad fact that there are people who actively defraud the public in order to take funds intended for the support of our armed forces community,” she said. “We want to ensure that money goes to supporting those who have made such a unique contribution to our society.”
If you spot someone selling fake remembrance day merchandise that bears the shape or image of the RBL’s two-petal poppy, or Poppy Scotland’s four-petal poppy, you can call reporting service Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
You can also report the crime online on the Crimestoppers’ website.