Ashington playgroup hit by email fraudsters

JPCT-26-08-11 SC11350062a Charmaine Richardson, 14 Spring Gardens, Washington, victim of email hacking -photo by steve cobb
JPCT-26-08-11 SC11350062a Charmaine Richardson, 14 Spring Gardens, Washington, victim of email hacking -photo by steve cobb
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EMAIL scammers took over Ashington Tiny Tots’ account last week, and the County Times became one of their intended con victims.

Spam email, headed ‘I need your assistance please’ was sent out from the playgroup’s hotmail account just after midday on August 25.

The message appeared to be from playgroup worker Charmaine Richardson, claiming to be in Athens and in desperate need of an emergency loan after being mugged at gunpoint.

Copies of it were sent out to everyone on the playgroup’s email list, including the County Times.

The message contained curious phrases such as: ‘Am in a great sorrow writing you this mail’, ‘I’m presently in Athens, Greece on short program’, and ‘I just need loan of €1,000 Pounds’.

Not surprisingly the appeal for help turned out to be a hoax, and the real Mrs Richardson was safely at home in Washington rather than stranded in Greece.

“I’m definitely not there,” she said, “I’ve never even been there.”

She said scammers had been targetting her own email of late: “I’ve had a lot of emails recently on my own personal account - I’ve had the African ones asking for bank details; Halifax, Santander and RBS telling me that I need to update my online banking details.”

“I just delete them all,” she added.

One unusual email Mrs Richardson could remember replying to was one which appeared to be from Microsoft, saying their Hotmail account had not been used recently.

She said it seemed credible because they rarely use the account, and the only information she included in her response was their username.

The computer will now be thoroughly checked for spyware, said Mrs Richardson.

She also said losing access to their email account had disrupted plans for the playgroup’s ‘nearly new’ sale, which will be held at Ashington Community Centre from 11am to 1pm on September 25.

Ashington Tiny Tots now has a new email address: ashingtontinytots@hotmail.co.uk