Police at Scotland Yard's computer crime squad are investigating the hacking of a UK charity Web site that has resulted in the theft of almost 3,000 credit card details.
Hackers breached the security of the Aid to the Church in Need Web site on Sunday 27 November and stole the credit card details, names and addresses of 2,800 charity donors held on the system.
The fraudsters have already used the stolen credit card details and have even telephoned some of the victims directly pretending to be from the charity and asking for money.
The Web site was taken offline as soon as the breach was discovered but it is not known yet how the hackers broke in. A spokesman for the charity told ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com: "We are not able to divulge how they got in the Web site for security reasons."
Neville Kyrke-Smith, UK national director of Aid to the Church in Need, has already contacted over 2,800 charity donors identified as being at risk and said the Web site will remain offline until the matter is resolved.
Kyrke-Smith said he believes the charity was specifically targeted in the run-up to Christmas despite having a "professionally designed Web site" with encryption and secure server access.
He said: "There is a conspiracy of silence over the question of Internet security, as only one in eight computer crimes is apparently reported. We wanted to be honest and would urge people to be vigilant, particularly at this time of the year."
The charity now fears the hack attack will hit fund-raising for crucial aid projects in Iraq, Pakistan and Sudan.