A Shoreham charity has appealed for help from the community after having almost £19,000 stolen by internet fraudsters.
Buckingham Events, the parent-led fundraising charity for Buckingham Park Primary School, had raised £50,000 towards a new playground before email hackers targeted a transaction for new play equipment in October.
The group’s chairman, Jodie Dyer, said the loss was heartbreaking, particularly after authorities were unable to recover the money after it left the country.
“To say we’re absolutely devastated is an understatement,” she said.
“It’s taken three years of incredibly hard work and the generosity and support of the families, the community and staff to raise this money. To have been targeted in this way is heartbreaking, which is why we are setting up a crowdfunder to try and replace some, if not all, of this stolen money.
“We know how generous people can be and that if everyone could give what they can, we can raise a lot, so we’re asking the Shoreham community to help us raise the funding we need for our children’s playground.”
Pupils of Buckingham Park Primary School had been instrumental in raising the money initially and have continued their efforts.
They have been helping with bag packing at supermarkets, holding cake sales and will be hosting a summer fair on July 5.
Their next bag packing will be at the Holmbush Tesco in Shoreham on June 22.
Buckingham Events has also set up a crowdfunding page, which has been supported by MP for East Worthing and Shoreham Tim Loughton.
Mr Loughton said he was ‘appalled’ by the fraud, which was indicative of a national trend for online crime.
“It is galling to see the efforts of parents and volunteers so easily undermined by opportunist criminals who are unfortunately becoming increasingly skilled at exploiting the internet especially for criminal activity,” he said.
“With fraud now the single largest type of crime in the UK I am afraid that this is by no means an isolated instance and it is vital that everyone does everything possible to keep their money safe online.
“I will be discussing the details of the crime further with parent representatives from the school and have offered to take this up with the police, the banks involved and the financial regulatory authorities to see whether they have exercised a proper duty of care to their customers.
“It really would be a huge blow to the fundraising of these volunteers if this crime goes unpunished and mush needed funds cannot be recovered.
To donate through the crowdfunding page, visit: www.gofundme.com/replenish-stolen-funds-for-school-playground