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'Beware fraudsters' - charity's warning after losing £10,000 to online crooks

PUBLISHED: 16:04 11 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:04 11 February 2019

The Bridge Project has been scammed out of £10,000 in a fraud. Picture: THE BRIDGE PROJECT

The Bridge Project has been scammed out of £10,000 in a fraud. Picture: THE BRIDGE PROJECT

THE BRIDGE PROJECT

A Sudbury charity is warning people to be vigilant when making online payments after being scammed out of £10,000 by fraudsters.

The Bridge Project thought it was paying a supplier but it emerged the company had been hacked, and bogus details were used to trick the charity into making three online payments.

The charity has been helping disadvantaged adults in the Sudbury area for 24 years and chief executive Jo Searle said she felt “physically sick” when she learned of the “sophisticated” scam staff had little chance of spotting.

She now wants to make others more aware of this type of online fraud so they can hopefully avoid becoming a victim.

She said: “I just cannot quite believe it. These sorts of things are shocking anyway, but the fact someone could do it to a charity as well makes it even worse, and then we have the impact of working out what we are going to do.”

Ms Searle said the loss of the money would not hinder the charity’s work currently, but it did create a “gap” in its cash for developing a successful meal delivery service.

Staff were already going to look for grant funding and now they need to find even more, Ms Searle said.

In terms of how it has affected morale at the charity, she added: “Obviously we work extremely hard for what we do and it feels like it’s just kicked back in your face in a way. It wasn’t the best news we had to share. I think people are very angry more than anything.”

Paul Mackman, chairman of trustees at the Bridge Project, said it seemed “so low” to scam a charity.

“It was absolutely awful. The Bridge Project is having some big social impact at the moment,” he said.

The scam happened over a period of six weeks from the end of November until mid January, but it was not until the supplier mentioned it had not been paid that it came to light.

It has been reported to the charity’s bank, Barclays, as well as Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, who are investigating – but Ms Searle believes it is “very unlikely” they will see the money again.

Anyone who wants to make a donation to the charity should call 01787 313691.

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