In association with Annandale Observer, Dumfries Courier, Annandale Herald and Moffat News

Clergyman targeted in scam

SCAM VICTIM . . . Rev. Willem Bezuidenhout
SCAM VICTIM . . . Rev. Willem Bezuidenhout

WORRIED parishioners rallied round when they heard their Dumfries minister had been mugged while on holiday in the Philippines.

But the email seemingly sent by the holidaying Willem Bezuidenhout of Kirkmichael, Tinwald and Torthorwald Parish last week turned out to be a scam which last year targeted a minister in Moffat.

Mr Bezuidenhout, 59, said: “Somebody hacked into my BT Internet account and sent messages to all my contacts, and then erased all my contacts so I couldn’t send emails out.”

The email sent said the South African minister was staying in Manila with his family, but they had been mugged and robbed leaving them with passports but no cash or credit cards. And it appealed for £3000 to settle the bills.

One parishioner who received the email and knew Mr Bezuidenhout was on holiday said: “He is the reverend of our community and is well liked and respected by everyone.

“When we received the email we were more than happy to help him out in any way we could. We had no reason to believe it would be a scam.”

However, the minister was with his two young children and wife in her mother’s home of Campbeltown.

It was an anxious phone call which tipped him off.

Mr Bezuidenhout said: “People were quite concerned, and I got a message back saying, ‘We’ll try to help you’.”

Grateful the scammers were unable to get hold of any money over the weekend, the concerned minister said: “They must have known I have a family, and they must have known I was away.”

He added: “I think people need to be made aware of what’s happening, because you might just get somebody who’s naive enough to fall for it and spend money. Because we were on holiday, it just seemed so real.”

Police Scotland have urged people to be on the alert to such scams.

A spokesman said: “There is no one immune now ministers, school teachers, police, or the man who sweeps the street they all have e-mails so they all really have to be careful.

“They have to be on the ball and if you have been hacked contact the police.”

A retired Moffat clergyman is a previous victim of hacking and police fear there could be a connection.

The spokesman added: “It seems strange that a couple of ministers have been targeted and it could be linked.”

POLICE are also investigating a scam involving the Blue Door Dental Practice in Castle Street, Dumfries. It appears that the practice’s computer system had been hacked and e-mails were sent from the system to the public and to customers asking for money. Anyone receiving an e mail from the practice is asked to contact the practice in the first instance as opposed to sending off any money.

NEWSDESK: 01461-202417

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