January 28, 2015

Image taken from the Fake Police Email Scam in Memory of Joseph Edwards Facebook page.

Windsor, Berkshire – We were extremely saddened to read last week about the tragedy surrounding Joseph Edwards, a seventeen-year-old A Level student who hung himself in the family home after he had received a bogus “police” email, that claimed the young student had been looking at illegal websites and would either have to pay a £100 fine or face prosecution. Joseph was on the autistic spectrum. The bogus spam message appeared to come from Cheshire police but originated from overseas.

His mother, who found her son hanging in the hallway at their home, has started a campaign in order to make children aware of the many internet scams that are out there. Many children, especially those who have autism, are especially vulnerable due to the fact that they take things literally

At a hearing at Windsor Guildhall, Joseph’s mother, Ms Edwards told:

“He was generally happy and had just started new friendship circles and was enjoying himself,” she told the coroner.

“He didn’t seem to have any worries known to me. I don’t think he really understood.

“He did suffer from autism. I’m not sure he would have really understood the implications of what he was doing.

“He wouldn’t have done anything to upset myself or his sister, not deliberately.”

The inquest heard that Joseph took his life, as as he did not want to distress his mother and sister. The scam claimed that he had indecent images in his possession.

Joseph died from asphyxia as a result of hanging.

Joseph’s mother has set up a Facebook group that has been created in order to raise awareness of fake police email scams that request money while accusing people of visiting illegal websites.

On Jan 21 the group posted:

‘On August 6th 2014 Joseph Edwards, received a fake email scam from Cheshire Police (Ukash Scam) informing him that he had been visiting illegal websites, which also generated a virus locking his laptop. He was asked to pay a sum of £100 or face being prosecuted. These emails are sent on headed paper from Police Authorities on both a National and Global basis. This message was designed to look extremely convincing due to the official Police headed paper.

Joseph who suffered from Autistic Spectrum Disorder was so distressed by the accusation and by the demand for money sadly took his own life.

This page is set up for a plea for more action to be taken against such websites and for the prosecution of those responsible for them. Also to raise awareness of the dangers these sites present, not only to children but also to older people and many others may be vulnerable to this sort of extortion.

We must do more to stop this, please share this to raise awareness.
Thank You.’

Linda Mastroianni of Speaking Autism, wrote on her Facebook page

‘I am in absolute tears! My oldest son received this exact same scam. In fact, it actually locked our computer. He was petrified. Thankfully he came to me with it. I did a search on Google with the information that appeared on our computer screen and discovered that this was indeed a scam and in our case a virus as well. It also said that it didn’t know the origin of this scam. For a brief period of time, my son was absolutely devastated.
My heart goes out to this family and this sweet young angel. He did nothing wrong.
Please share with others so that this will never happen again.’

Ambitious About Autism posted on their Facebook page:

‘Our deepest sympathies go out to the family of 17 year-old Joseph Edwards who died needlessly due to an internet scam.

His family have set up a Facebook campaign to raise awareness of fake police scams which you can support at Fake Police Email Scam in Memory of Joseph Edwards.’

This tragic incident once again highlights how very vulnerable young people who are on the autism spectrum are, when it comes to internet safety. We recently reviewed Nicola Lonie’s book, Online Safety for Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum A Parent’s and Carer’s Guide, which can be read here. The author describes in this book, the issues surrounding internet safety and spam email and that for many children and young people on the autism spectrum, they are extremely vulnerable to this kind of cybercrime.

With this type of cybercrime, it is the child or young person who is put at risk, just as Joseph was. In the words of Linda Mastroianni, ‘he did nothing wrong.’

We would like to send our deepest sympathies to the Edwards’ family.

To support the campaign, please visit the Fake Police Email Scam in Memory of Joseph Edwards Facebook page.

Source: The Telegraph: Autistic boy hanged himself after receiving bogus ‘police’ email

About the author 

Jo Worgan

Jo Worgan is a published author, writer and blogger. She has a degree in English Literature. She writes about life with her youngest son who is on the autistic spectrum. Jo tweets (@mummyworgan) and is also a freelance columnist for the Lancaster Guardian. ‘My Life with Tom, Living With Autism‘ is her second book and a culmination of her blog posts, and available on Kindle now, along with her first book, Life on the Spectrum. The Preschool years.

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