REMEMBER Olive Cooke, 92, the Bristol-based famous fundraiser for 77 years who probably sold more than 30,000 poppies and raised thousands of pounds for charity?

She fell to her death in the Avon Gorge near the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Her grandson Kevin King argued that “cold calling” charities had tried to “milk” his grandmother and drove her to kill herself earlier this month.

Olive Cooke’s son Del Whelan painted a grim picture. “It was the constant drip of the begging letters. I think she found it difficult to say no. She had just had enough.”

Olive Cooke confirmed that in one month she collected 267 items of post from dozens of different charities asking her for a donation or help with fundraising.

She said: “I have always donated to charity but as I am getting older, I have been told I need to start cutting back. I think the elderly are targeted with this sort of mail on purpose, as charities think they have lots of disposable money or they might have donated in the past, but receiving so much is overwhelming. And it’s not just post, there are also lots of phone calls that come through.”

The question is – are people in Oxfordshire being hounded in the name of “charity” as well? And what scams are happening on our streets, under our noses?

Personal and financial details and their areas of special interest of people who give donations to charities are being traded for as little as 15p per name.

Those on these databases are likely to be over the age of 55, with a prime credit rating and responsive to direct marketing.

Tory MP Andrew Percy says: “It’s shocking that people’s goodwill is being harvested in such a clinical and corporate manner – particularly when they are often vulnerable and elderly.”

Are cold calling charities picking on a generation of elderly, lonely, frail people, a generation of people who were brought up to be particularly courteous and generous?

Do charities target people with memory loss?

One war widow, Beryl from Solihull, has dementia and has been hounded by begging letters for charities, many of the biggest names in the business, to donate her pension money.

The mother of my former producer at BBC Radio Oxford has Alzheimer’s and she would sign cheque after cheque to the same charity because she didn’t remember she had written out a cheque the day before. The charity cashed them each time.

This happened with several charities and when the family finally was able to get their mother to sign a mail divert order they discovered that she had spent well into five figures with these donations.

Mail and phone calls are not the only way charities get to you and me. I was walking through Oxford’s Cornmarket two months ago and a very personable gap-year student came up and gave me a passionate talk about why I should contribute to the cure of cancer and he outlined how this donation would help people and hospitals in Oxford.

I was interested and almost persuaded to part with my money until I asked him if he was from Oxford. “Oh, no, I’m from Brighton,” he said. “We’ve come here as a team in a van.”

“Why do you do it?” I inquired. “Well, it’s a job and we all get paid a percentage.”

He was naïve enough to tell me the double digit number of his commission which was a deal-breaker and I walked on. But how many other local people supported this “local” charity?

‘Chuggers’, or charity muggers, are on the streets right now.

On Tuesday this week an eager young couple, Ed and Kayleigh, rang my doorbell in New High Street, Headington, and marvelled at the Shark sticking out of my roof.

Then they got down to business – cancer contributions again.

They each had a spiel about a new revolutionary breakthrough treatment that people hadn’t heard about yet and they needed so many millions of pounds to fund it for the market. Could I help?

“Not in terms of money,” I told them. “But I am a journalist and I might be able to write an article about this charity for the Oxford Mail. Do you have any literature or leaflets or cards?”

“No,” they said. ”We’re cheaper than leaflets. That’s why they hired us.”

They were wearing matching blue T-shirts with a slogan about supporting a cure for cancer and they had prominent ID badges. But they also each carried a blue file.

I thought this might provide some background material. “No, it’s a direct debit form for you to sign. If you do sign it I can give you the counterpart, but I can’t just hand out the forms because each one has a bar code and if you misused it I could get into trouble,” said the bloke.

I didn’t want to create any ‘trouble’ for them so I said my goodbyes and closed the door.

When I came into work at the BBC I found another ‘angle’ on this problem from a colleague in an email.

“Hi all, just a quick note. I was stopped on my walk home by two women in a silver Fiesta asking for money. They had the worst excuse I’ve ever heard – ‘left my wallet at home’.”

Well, drive home and get it if you need money so bad. I’ve witnessed the same two women try the same thing at the BP garage at the top of the Woodstock Road.

Beware, desperate times lead to desperate measures.