Autistic Boy Commits Suicide After Getting Embarrassing Bogus Email

Parents are being warned to keep an eye out on their children's computers for signs of a scam that sends out an email purporting to be from "police" who then notify the recipient that he or she is being fined for looking at "indecent" websites. Unfortunately one of those scam emails got into the hands of a 17-year-old autistic boy, who, because of learning disabilities, assumed the email was real. His shame or fear was apparently so great that he committed suicide after he read it.


Joseph Edwards, who lived in Berkshire, England, hanged himself at home and was found by his horrified mother. Police took his computer and, in the course of investigating, realized he had been looking at an email sent to him right before his death.

The email claimed to be from the police and said that the boy had been looking at illegal and indecent websites and he needed to pay approximately $150 (100 British pounds) or he would be arrested.

Because of his disability, the boy took the email at face value and hung himself shortly thereafter.

His mother said that before he received the email, he was a happy teen who made friends easily and showed no signs of depression.

Unfortunately, whoever sent the scam email will probably never pay for their actions because police say the best they can figure out is that it came from overseas.

This scam sounds eerily similar to one going around where hackers lock you out of your own computer and force you to send cash to them or lose your hard drive.

Only this scam is even worse because it can prey upon a person's fear of being locked up. Honestly, I'm on my computer every single day, and if someone sent me an email like that, I would have to think twice about whether or not I'd inadvertently clicked on something "indecent" or "illegal" -- so I can only imagine how confused a young autistic boy was.

The coroner said the scam most likely caused the boy "great distress and difficulty," and that he probably did not realize fully what hanging himself would do.

His mother, Jacqueline, is now speaking out about what happened in an attempt to alert parents to this scam so they can talk about it with their children. She said in a statement:

The Internet is an amazing thing, but it can also be dangerous and I want parents to make sure their children are aware of this sort of scam, especially autistic children, because they will not understand.

It's unclear if this scam has reached our shores yet, but if not, it could soon. Parents, have a word with your kids to always let you know if they receive any messages demanding money -- make sure they don't feel embarrassed or afraid to share these messages with you.

This must be so devastating for this mom. And what a tragedy for this poor teen. If only these scammers had any kind of heart and soul, they would stop this kind of thing immediately. But I fear that is not going to happen, so educate your kids.

Have you ever seen a scam like this?


Image via Enokson/Flickr

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