THE next time you put your hand in your pocket to donate to charity, the events of last week may make you think twice. Anyone would be forgiven for asking this legitimate question: who is going to benefit from this money - a genuine charity in need of cash or a bunch of con merchants? In a week in which it has been claimed at least 10 agencies are collecting funds for charitable organisations without their knowledge or authority, the reputation of charity collections in Hongkong has been left severely damaged by an unscrupulous minority, whose devious methods will leave the genuine, vast majority of charities seething with anger. Police confirmed yesterday they were investigating two advertising firms for alleged bogus charity collections. But as more evidence is unearthed - much of it by the Sunday Morning Post - more companies look certain to come under police investigation. The Hongkong Council of Social Service said it had received 43 calls this month from students saying they had been recruited to raise funds for dubious organisations. These ''charities'' were not registered with the Government. Last night a civil servants group and a centre for the elderly said they were outraged by an advertising agency's ''fund-raising'' using their names and supposedly acting on their behalf. Both organisations said they were considering reporting the agencies to police and taking legal action, but first they would hold urgent meetings early this week. The All Advertising Company in Mongkok told employees to solicit advertising sponsors for ''publications'' of Man Oi Home for the Aged in Tai Po, and the Hongkong Government Medical Department Chinese Staff General Association. If potential donors expressed doubts, staff were told to fax to them documents with letter heads of the Man Oi Home and the staff association. Man Oi Home's superintendent, Li Ling, said: ''We have not commissioned any advertising firm to publish anything.'' She remembered receiving a strange call from somebody claiming to work for an advertising firm last year. The man offered to help the centre promote and solicit sponsors through advertising, but Ms Li turned down the offer. ''I asked what kind of advertising they were offering. Then I told them we were just an elderly centre and did not need publicity,'' she said. ''We have not commissioned anybody to raise funds, nor do we have links with any advertising firm. We are very angry with these frauds using our name. We don't want to see anybody being cheated.'' Likewise, chairwoman of the Hongkong Government Medical Department Chinese Staff General Association, Lai Chi-to, said they definitely had no links with All Advertising Company. Ms Lai said any letter from the association must carry the chairperson's stamped signature and board members' names at the bottom left hand corner. These were not found in All Advertising's letters. Ho Tin-hung, the association's vice-chairman, said: ''We need to hold an urgent meeting to decide the next move. ''We'll consider taking legal action if this is proven to be true. ''We haven't commissioned All Advertising Company to get advertising sponsors elsewhere. Their letters must be fake.'' The Sunday Morning Post went to All Advertising Company in Mongkok yesterday morning. In the poorly furnished office of about 100 square feet on the 16th floor, there were six boys and girls chatting, smoking and sitting around one of two tables. We were told the woman in charge was called Connie but she was out. She later returned a pager call to the office, saying she refused to be interviewed. Connie finally turned up after midday, but she shunned our camera and told our photographer to stop taking pictures. She also denied she was the boss of All Advertising but refused to identify her boss, saying she had nothing to tell us. Meanwhile, police have declined to disclose details of the two agencies they are investigating. However the Sunday Morning Post has learned one of them is the Hongkong Yat Wui Advertising Company, which allegedly used the name of the Mei Lun Care Centre for the Mentally Retarded and Disabled in Yuen Long to raise money without its knowledge or authority. This is the second time Mei Lun's name has been used in this manner in recent weeks. On July 2, Wong Tai Sin police arrested three teenagers while they were allegedly raising money unlawfully for the Mei Lun centre from residents in Choi Hung Estate in Wong Tai Sin. Next day police arrested their employer, a 20-year-old woman, at her advertising firm in Tsuen Wan. The four have been released on bail without charge. Mei Lun's operator, a Mr Wong, said the centre had commissioned Yat Wui Advertising last December to publish a fifth anniversary report by soliciting advertising sponsors, but Yat Wui had not been authorised to raise money for the centre. Mr Wong said Yat Wui raised $40,000 in advertising revenue in seven months and sent them half the amount. Angered by the agency's unauthorised fund-raising using their name, Mr Wong said Mei Lun would now consider terminating their contract. Ms Regina Lau of the Hongkong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) said at least 10 agencies were active in unauthorised fund-raising activities, using the names of charitable bodies. Under existing laws, ''gazetted charitable organisations'' are allowed to raise funds in public by obtaining a permit from the Social Welfare Department. Ms Lau said the unauthorised collectors were taking advantage of legal loopholes by raising charity funds under the guise of soliciting advertising sponsors for charity groups' publications, banquets and Canto-opera shows. The common trick is to use the charity bodies' names in letter heads, receipts, and employees' work permits without identifying their own company. Ms Lau said students working in the dubious agencies and donors calling to check were generally reluctant to report to police. Worried teenagers have phoned the HKCSS to check the authenticity of the agencies which have recruited them. ''We usually advised them to quit their jobs after telling them the agencies they worked for were not 'gazetted charitable institutions'. ''We also try to persuade both donors and holiday workers to report to police. But only a few take the initiative to do so. They fear trouble, thinking what they lose is not big money.'' Last week one disgruntled student told the Sunday Morning Post of her work with the Hongkong Yat Wui Advertising Company. Fiona Cheng, 18, and a friend were given jobs at the agency. The third-former raised $120 in private estates in Kwai Chung on the first day and about $400 last Monday and Tuesday. ''We saw a small ad in a Chinese newspaper saying 'Summer Worker 7,000'. We thought we would be getting $7,000 but the woman who worked there told us the basic salary was $4,500.'' Miss Cheng said about 20 youngsters were recruited by the firm. They were told to either solicit advertisers over the phone or raise funds door to door in housing estates. ''The woman in charge of the small office was in her twenties, wearing jeans and overalls. She didn't look too professional. ''Very often she just put the money we raised into her own pocket without checking the amount. ''They seemed to tell people they wanted advertising sponsors for charity publications and their client was Mei Lun Care Centre.'' When Miss Cheng went to work last Friday, she was shocked to find the office closed.