A PEACE campaigner has been hit by an e-mail scam that has seen e-mails begging for cash sent to more than 1000 of her contacts – including leading politicians and government officials.
The fake message said Janet Fenton, 64, was stuck in Spain having been robbed, and urgently needed money sent to her to help her return to the UK.
Instead, the protester was at home in Edinburgh, and is frantically trying to make contact with as many friends as possible in the hope that no-one falls for the hoax.
But more worryingly for Ms Fenton, a freelance campaigner who works for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the hacker has deleted all the contacts from her online address book.
She told the Evening News: “My phone is ringing off the hook with people contacting me to tell me about it. I just hope no-one is tricked by it.
“My IT consultant told me I’ve probably been targeted because of the size of my contacts book, which, as well as all my friends and families, has MSPs, MPs, officials, charities, newspaper editors, all kinds of people, easily more than 1000.
“I do so much of my work through e-mail and now I can’t even access it.”
The hackers forced their way into Ms Fenton’s account, stole the contacts and shut it down.
At this point, they set up a similar e-mail account to dupe recipients into thinking it was actually her e-mailing, using the Ymail server instead of Yahoo. The original message stated: “I was thinking of asking you to lend me some quick funds that I can give back as soon as I get in. I really need to be on the next available flight.”
Anyone making contact with the hackers is then sent a second e-mail – written in poor English and littered with spelling and grammatical errors – detailing a request for $2500 and how to process this through Western Union.
Any subsequent contact results in a third e-mail asking for an MTCN number, which would give access to the money.
The message also includes two contact numbers for a hotel in Spain, but neither work.
Ms Fenton said the timing of the attack was particularly bad as she had hoped to inform contacts of a report on the future of the Trident missile programme if Scotland votes for independence.
She added: “I’ve always been so careful with e-mails because I know how many contacts I have. I’ve never e-mailed anything I wouldn’t want the whole planet to know, and I’ve never bombarded people with spam or anything inappropriate. I contacted Yahoo and they have locked down my account for 24 hours.
“Until that is over, I won’t know how to get all these contacts back. It must be someone who is really desperate.”
Ms Fenton is the latest Edinburgh personality to fall victim to e-mail hacking.
In May, round-the-world cyclist Mark Beaumont, who used his e-mail account to inform fans of his adventures, was hit by another Spanish scam pleading for cash. Days later Livingston-based musician Stewart Wilson was also affected by the same scam.