A shell-shocked charity boss says he feels ‘sick to the stomach’ after being targeted by online fraudsters on the eve of his wedding.
Cyber crooks hacked into the email account of Great North Dog Walk organiser Tony Carlisle and sent out a plea for cash – purporting to be from him – to over 50,000 people on his mailing list.
The message claimed Mr Carlisle and partner Nicola Greenan had been mugged by a gang of thugs while on a break in Turkey and needed £1,650 urgently to sort out hotel bills.
But he was back home in South Shields, preparing for his wedding day.
The 57-year-old, who was due to be married at South Shields Town Hall this afternoon, says his bride-to-be and mother of his three daughters has been left in tears by the scam.
He is particularly concerned that the tricksters make mention of his upcoming wedding and also know the name of his partner.
I feel sick to the stomach. My identity has been stolen.Tony Carlisle
He is not the first charity boss in the borough to fall victim to cyber fraud.
Last year, Relay for Life organiser Ann Walsh’s email was also hacked, with a plea for over 2,250 Euros sent from her account after it was alleged she was also mugged in Turkey.
Mrs Walsh was inundated with concerned calls about the false message.
Mr Carlisle, from Cauldwell Villas, South Shields, immediately alerted police – who are now investigating the incident.
The fake message says: “We were mugged in an alley by a gang of thugs on our way back from shopping. All cash,credit cards and phones were stolen away including some valuable items,
“We’re financially strapped due to the unexpected robbery attack. I’ll be indeed grateful if I can get a loan of £1,650 from you.
The former Harton Technology College teacher said: “I have been getting phone calls and messages all day from people asking ‘are you OK?’ and ‘is it true?’. This is a personal, tailored fraud. It is a horrible thing to do.”
“The police are taking it very seriously. The wedding is today and there is a worry people will send money if they think we need help.
“I have over 50,000 people on my email mailing list and if just a few of those sent money, that would be a huge amount of money.”
Mr Carlisle admits the online scam nearly pushed him ‘over the edge’ – coming soon after he was told by doctors that the results of a recent cancer biopsy won’t be known for another few days.
After having several lesions removed from his skin at South Tyneside Hospital, he hoped to get the all-clear before tying the knot.
He added: “I feel sick to the stomach. My identity has been stolen.
“This could have pushed me over the edge, with my cancer worries and wedding preparations as well.”
Mr Carlisle is urging friends and charity supporters who have received the email not to send cash – and urged them to be wary of falling foul of identity fraud.
A Northumbria Police spokesman said: “We can confirm that this is a fraudulent scam and would urge people not to send any money. Officers are investigating the incident.
“Anyone who feels they may have fallen victim to the scam, or is worried they have been targeted by on-line fraudsters, is asked to contact police on 101 extension 69691 or Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 20 40.”