Fraudsters beg for cash after Harold Hill charity gets hacked

Administrator, Patricia Robertson; Financial Director, Paul Masterson; Director, Clive Jelf; Chair,

Administrator, Patricia Robertson; Financial Director, Paul Masterson; Director, Clive Jelf; Chair, Vivien Redbourn at Homestart Havering, who have had their computers hacked. - Credit: Vickie Flores

A charity is appealing for other organisations to be wary of cyber attacks after its own computers and website were hacked last week.

Home-Start Havering, in Spilsby Road, Harold Hill, gives free and confidential support to families with young children across the borough but has been unable to take on new cases on since losing access to their emails.

Chairwoman, Vivien Redbourn, said: “This has come as quite a shock, we are kind of ground to a halt and we can’t help any families or get new referrals at the moment.”

The charity discovered the hack when an administrative assistant tried to log on to the system on Thursday morning but couldn’t get in.

She then began receiving calls from people on their mailing list saying they had been sent a strange email.

It claimed one of the Home-Start Havering members of staff was stranded in Russia and they needed to be sent money.

The directors were able to get in touch with all their sponsors and warn them before any money was given away to the fraudsters.

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“If they had said they were stranded in Mallorca or somewhere like that it would have been more believable,” said Mrs Redbourn.

“Once we figured out what had happened we tried to update the website but whoever did this changed the password to that as well.

“We don’t know how they got in or who it was – it could be a 14-year-old messing around in their bedroom or it could be an organisation targeting charities.”

Home-Start Havering called the police although they are still left with a hefty bill to get the software up and running again.

“We found the man who created our website a few years back but he was on holiday when we were hacked,” explained Mrs Redbourn.

“He’s back now so hopefully he will be able to sort some of this mess out for us.

“If there are any kind local IT people out there who want to help us out that would also be amazing.”

The charity is also hoping for donors to come forward to help fund the repairs.

“We’d also like to warn other charities to be on the lookout just in case they are at risk as well,” Mrs Redbourn added.

If you would like to help Home-Start Havering in any way you can contact them on 01708 455551.