A Yorkshire wildlife sanctuary has been scammed out of £13,000 in an email hack resulting in a crucial housing project having to be delayed, its founder has revealed.
The Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary was targeted by the fraudsters who intercepted an email from a regular supplier by changing the bank details to ensure they cruelly received the £13,000 the charity had handed over, intended for a new animal housing project.
Founder Alex Farmer said: "We are absolutely devastated and heartbroken to have this money, which was donated to us by the public and took years to accumulate, stolen.
"A few days ago we were in contact with a regular supplier by email for our new site.
"Midway through the conversation with the supplier, at the point where we were about to receive the invoice, the emails were intercepted by a hacker who impersonated the supplier and provided their own BACs details, masking their own identity, resulting in our money going to the thief."
The crime came to light when the bank called the sanctuary about the suspected fraud and confirmed it to be true.
Miss Farmer said: We are devastated. We are only a small charity and when we have the general day-to-day costs of charity to pay for, this amount of money has taken a long time to slowly save up. All of those donations and fundraising efforts just gone.
"We are mostly upset for the animals and our new site. The money was earmarked for two very large flight enclosures to house and home over a hundred creatures we have living. This project will have to sadly be delayed and we will have to continue the best we can in the next few months.
"We will also not be able to do our annual ex battery hen rescue which is a big shame."
Miss Farmer said all the sanctuary's current rescue and rehabilitation work will not be affected, nor will the care of the animals currently at the site.
Both the police and Action Fraud have been contacted, as well as the bank and the email providers in question, with investigations ongoing.
Miss Farmer said: "We hope to get the money back but the banks haven’t been able to guarantee this.
"We have been in contact with the suppliers, who are extremely shocked and are conducting their own investigations. We have carried out anti-spyware/malware scans which gave the all clear and changed all passwords and our email address.
"We wanted to share what happened as we feel it is important that our supporters are aware of this crime and we hope others stay safe."
A GoFundMe page has been set up by a supporter of the sanctuary to try and raise some money to replace the amount that has been stolen.
To donate to the fundraising page, click here.