Saturday, September 23, 2023

Donors to animal charities vulnerable to illegal demands for money because of a hack into a database

NEWS and COMMENT: The Mail Online reports on a disturbing development which affects good people and high-profile people who donate to animal welfare charities. These people are now vulnerable to being conned by criminals making demands for money.

Hackers attacked a survey company which works with more than 40 charities. They stole surnames, home addresses, emails and the amount they donated to charities. The charities concerned include the RSPCA, Dogs Trust and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. It is said that the information regarding hundreds of thousands of donors has been stolen.

For example, Friends of the Earth said that data from 93,000 of their supporters had been taken. They are taking the matter very seriously.

Battersea Dogs and Cats said that they had contacted those affected "to offer support and advice".

The RSPCA which is half a million supporters has also contacted them in emails about the hack.

There are concerns that as the hack took place six weeks ago that there may have been subsequent demands on these people since then who might have unwittingly paid up. If they are regular contributors to animal welfare charities and if they have the funds to make regular donations, they might fall foul to these cons.

The hackers got into the computers of a subcontractor, Kokoro, of a Surrey-based company called About Loyalty on August 9, which carries out surveys on the charities' supporters.

It is believed that many hundreds of thousands of donors have been affected. A spokesperson for Kokoro said: 'We are confident the incident has now been contained and there is no ongoing risk to our systems. We have notified those whose data has been impacted.'

The breach is being investigated by the Information Commissioner's Office which has the power to issue fines of up to 17.5 million or 4% of a company's annual turnover if a company or business fails to keep people's data safe.

Potentially and perhaps actually, some high-profile people are involved. For example, Sir Elton John is an ambassador for Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. Sir Brian May is another individual who is very closely involved with animal welfare charities. He's a wealthy man and it seems plausible that they may be targeted with phishing emails trying to con them out of money.

Phishing: the fraudulent practice of sending emails or other messages purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.

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