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Straw hit by internet fraudsters

Jack Straw says there are no security concernsJack Straw says there are no security concerns

UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw has been the victim of Nigerian fraudsters who sent out hundreds of e-mails in his name asking for money.

The e-mails claimed he had lost his wallet on charity work in Africa and needed 3,500 US dollars to get home.

Messages headed the Right Hon Jack Straw MP were sent to council bosses, government chiefs and others.

The fraudsters are thought to have hacked into computers at Mr Straw's Blackburn constituency office.

Mr Straw has confirmed the e-mails had been sent to a "significant number of people" in his address book but he said there were no security issues as it was his Blackburn e-mail address rather than his ministerial account that was targeted.

He told his local newspaper the Lancashire Telegraph: "I started getting phone calls from various constituents asking if I was really in Nigeria needing 3,000 dollars.

"It was an issue for constituents, not the government.

I would like you to assist me with a soft loan urgently to settle my hotel bills and get myself back home

Fake email sent to Jack Straw's contacts
"We are checking all that and I am assured there's no evidence that confidentiality of constituents was affected."

When he was home secretary, Mr Straw established the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit to combat internet hackers.

He said: "The internet is wonderful in many ways, but these gangs put a lot of effort in because they make money from it.

"In a lot of cases they do get people to cough up.
"But I think it was so obviously ridiculous that I could go off trekking in Africa and I would lose my wallet."

'Misplaced wallet'
The scam e-mail, which was sent to Labour members, council chiefs and Ministry of Justice officials, said Mr Straw was travelling to Africa for a project called Empowering Youth to Fight Racism, and was at an address in Nigeria's largest city, Lagos.

Mr Straw is quoted as saying: "I misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money and other valuable things were kept.

"I would like you to assist me with a soft loan urgently to settle my hotel bills and get myself back home".

The scam came to light on Thursday when Mr Straw's office received an e-mail saying its account would be suspended unless a reply was sent.

But when a member of staff replied, they were blocked out of the account.

Constituents then began to phone Mr Straw's constituency office asking about the e-mail they had received.

One is believed to have replied to the e-mail, but nobody has offered any money to the fraudsters.

The Hotmail account was suspended by Microsoft.