Parents who fundraised nearly £19,000 for a new playground, have been scammed by internet fraudsters.

After 11 years, the playground at Buckingham Park Primary School badly needed renovating. So parents raised almost £19,000 for their children’s school, only to have it stolen by online criminals.

The parent led charity, Buckingham Events, had raised around £50,000 for the school in total, and one section of the playground has been rebuilt. It was while the charity was paying for some of that work that it was targeted by fraudsters. One parent told ITV: “It was a legitimate invoice that we were asked to pay, and while we were in the process of going through an email thread to make that payment, our emails were intercepted by somebody who we don’t know. They then gave us fraudulent bank details to make the payment to.”

The money, which had taken three years to raise, was meant to pay for the remainder of the work on the new playground. The children had even taken part in the fundraising through a series of events, including ice cream sales. One school fundraiser said: “We feel violated by what’s happened. Unfortunately, this level of crime has become so sophisticated and because it is cyber-crime, it is so detached. So those people behind this have no emotional attachment to our situation at all.

A lot is being done to prevent and detect financial crime and we can help too. It is not solely a banks responsibility to keep our money safe, we must also take steps to protect ourselves adequately. Most people think they wouldn’t fall for a fraudulent text or email and are too savy to be scammed, but criminals are more sophisticated than ever. When it comes to your money, always think twice.

Have you received an unexpected call, email or text asking you to provide personal information? Just because someone knows some of your personal details it does not mean they are genuine. They may know your full name, address, maiden name etc, but they could be a fraudster looking to extract more information from you in order to gain access to your bank account and your money.

Stay safe from financial crime and remember:

A bank or trusted organisation will never contact you asking for your PIN of full password, or to transfer money to a ‘Safe Account’.

Never give out your personal or financial details unless you are 100% sure who you are talking to.

Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected email or text. This could give a fraudster access to your personal details.

Always question people who contact you through cold-calling. Under new legislation brought in this year, it is now illegal to cold-call and individual unless you have given your specific consent for them to do so.

If you are in any doubt about who a caller is, end the call. You can always call the company back when you have obtained the company’s number from a legitimate and trusted source.

The playground money had taken three years to raise through scores of events. The children themselves helping through things like ice cream sales. Police have told the fundraisers that the stolen money has been transferred abroad, with little hope of getting it back. An appeal has been launched to try to replace the stolen funds. Some schools across the region now depend on fundraising, not just for luxuries but for essentials. Parents and fundraisers say the criminals who carried out this fraud have deprived the children of the play facilities they need.