LIKE any hardworking charity they depend on the loyal support of dedicated fundraisers.

But that goodwill has been cruelly manipulated after hackers hijacked a Hampshire charity’s email account.

Now leaders of the Diabetes UK Southampton and District group warn people could be cheated out of thousands of pounds if they fall victim to the malicious internet scam.

The Daily Echo was among hundreds of people sent hoax emails from the charity’s account in the early hours of yesterday.

The initial message entitled ‘How are you Doing???’ requested a favour.

When we replied we received a second email pleading for a loan of up to £2,450 to cover returning from a business trip in Kharkov, Ukraine.

Group secretary Angie Whitmarsh last night warned people the messages are a hoax and stressed that the charity has ordered Yahoo to block their account.

Ms Whitmarsh – a type one diabetes sufferer – branded the hackers “despicable” and said: “They are preying on people’s goodwill and exploiting their good nature at a time when people are struggling enough.

“These people are the worst of the worst – they are scum.

“I just hope and pray that people look at it and question it before parting with any money.”

Her suspicions were raised three days ago when Yahoo sent her an email enquiring about changes to her account.

Yesterday she began receiving messages from worried supporters questioning her about the requests.

Ms Whitmarsh, a former police officer from Hedge End who was diagnosed in 2005, launched the group in April 2010.

Yahoo is working to restore the account, but the group’s online address book containing 300 people has been deleted in the disruption.

The 54-year-old said: “This has done long-term damage because we’ve got no way of contacting them.

“A lot of people take a long time to accept they have the condition and if we can’t contact them then they may never come back to the meetings.”

A spokeswoman for the national Diabetes UK office urged people to delete the emails immediately.

A Hampshire Constabulary spokesman said: “People should be wary of emails such as this and take care not to send money.”

The initial messages are first sent from diabetesuksouthamptongroup followed by a request for money from a hoax account entitled diiabetesuksouthamptongroup

Anyone who receives one should contact police through actionfraud. website or on 0300 123 2040