A WORTHING couple who run a children’s playscheme fear their reputation has been tarnished after Nigerian criminals hacked into their email account.
Karen and Jason Ward, who host the Worthing Playday each year on Broadwater Green, discovered their internet security had been breached on Thursday, February 3.
Their Worthing Playday Facebook account had been hacked into and the con artists then accessed the couple’s Yahoo email account details to attempt to scam people out of cash.
Karen said: “A fellow childminder alerted me to an email she had received saying we were staying in Cyprus and had been robbed.
“The email said we needed urgent help and asked people to send money to us.”
The scam email was sent to everyone on the Worthing Playday contacts list – including reporters at the Worthing Herald and MP Tim Loughton.
The email said the couple didn’t have access to a phone but needed €1,850, which should be sent to the “Western Union Money Transfer or Money Gram”.
“It’s incredibly worrying that we were so easily targeted,” said Karen.
“Friends, family and our contacts were obviously very concerned, and while it does read like a scam, someone could have fallen for it.”
Karen and Jason were unable to warn their email contacts about the scam, because the hackers deleted their contacts list and changed their account settings.
Facebook has frozen the Worthing Playday account and Sussex Police has been informed of the scam.
Karen said: “What’s worse is, we are not going to receive any funding for Worthing Playday this year because of all the cuts, so we are reliant on our good relationships with our contacts, such as local businesses, to put the playday on again this year.
“Now, because the scam was asking for money, we’re worried it could have affected our reputation.”
Karen and Jason set up the Worthing Playday in 2009, paying for the event themselves with the support of several businesses.
Then, last year, following the success of the first event, they received a £5,000 grant from West Sussex County Council, which has been withdrawn this year.
The couple are planning to host the event this year on August 3.