Blair ‘Faith Foundation’ website targeted by fraudsters
Comment at end
12th September, 2008
Tony Blair’s Faith Foundation website forced to call in the lawyers over conmen
Excerpts from Daily Mail report:
Tony Blair has become the latest unwitting victim of identity fraud – after conmen targeted his website to lure unsuspecting victims into parting with their cash.
The scam took the form of emails which were sent around the world to those who had expressed an interest into the former PM’s charity, advertising so-called international conferences taking place in London.
All were said to have been organised by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, with the former Prime Minister listed as speaking at two of the events.
In return for paying hundred of pounds in cash, would-be delegates were promised humanitarian grants from commercial companies sponsoring the events, as well as paid air tickets to the UK.
In fact, everything about the e-mails was bogus – as a rudimentary check should have told the recipients when the opening line of the email misspelled the word ‘Registration’.
Mr Blair’s officials were alerted to the scam when a member of public contacted their London offices on Tuesday.
The Tony Blair Faith Foundation was launched in New York in May this year. Mr Blair has defined one of its main objectives as using religion as a force for good.
Farrer & Co solicitors, who also represent the Queen, immediately wrote to two Internet Service Providers (ISPs) stating that they were hosting the email scammers distributing the fake Tony Blair emails, and asking for them to be closed down.
The Tony Blair Faith Foundation aims to use religion as a force for good
One of the ISPs is Live.com, owned and run by the Microsoft Corporation, whose chairman is Mr Blair’s friend Bill Gates. A Microsoft spokesman said: ‘The email did not originate from an official Microsoft source.
‘Customers that have received this message should not give out any personal details and report the email to their service provider as spam. We apologise for any confusion or inconvenience this has caused our users.’
The other ISP provider, Ftml.net, is owned by the Australian firm Fastmail.fm. No-one there was available for comment yesterday.
A page Warning of Fraudulent Activity’ was posted on the foundation’s website on Thursday.
It read: ‘The Tony Blair Faith Foundation has discovered that a group of individuals are falsely representing themselves as working on behalf of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.’
Advertisements, it added, were appearing regarding various conferences and the awarding of a ‘Humanitarian Grant’.
The warning continues: ‘Please note these solicitations are fraudulent and entirely unconnected with the work of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. We are taking legal steps to address this matter.’
A spokesman for Mr Blair said : ‘It is disgraceful to use the Tony Blair Faith Foundation name in this way.
‘Whilst it will be obvious to most people that these emails are bogus, we believe we have a responsibility to draw peoples’ attention to this practice which many organisations suffer from by putting a notice on our website.
‘We have notified the relevant authorities, and have also contacted the internet service providers for the addresses being used to ask them to stop the emails and to disable the account concerned. A copy of all our official newsletters are clearly on our website.’
The spokesman said they had no idea how long the fraud had been going on for, or to what extent anyone may have suffered a financial loss.
Last night Professor Mike Levi, an internet fraud expert at the University of Wales, said: ‘It will take a while to ascertain the scale of any financial loss – due to the worldwide aspect and the sheer embarrassment people may feel at being caught out in this way.
‘It is also bad news for Mr Blair from what I would call the “immense reputation damaging” aspect of being at the centre of this sort of identity fraud.
‘People may see his name listed on the internet at bona fide conferences in the future and be unsure as to whether they are real or not.’
And a recent poll says …