Gran’s torment by e-mail

2008-08-22 00:00

A seemingly innocent e-mail pleading for information about a lost teenager called Ashley Flores turned out to be a nightmare for the woman who was identified as the child’s heartbroken mother at the end of the message.

Durban grandmother Louise Louw said this week that she has no idea how her telephone number and e-mail address found their way on to the e-mail.

For about three weeks, she has been receiving around 750 e-mails a day in addition to phone calls from “concerned” people in places as far away as Malibu, California, and Namibia.

She said she took the problem to her company’s IT department, which said it was a hoax originating in Philadelphia and has been circulating for the past five years. According to the website www.snopes.com, this e-mail was initially a child’s prank. Ashley Flores was never lost.

Louw said she uses her e-mail for work purposes only and it would be extremely difficult to change her contact details.

“We are trying our best to stop this, but it isn’t easy. It is impossible to trace back the mail as it is just so vast.”

She said in addition to a great deal of sympathy, she has had to put up with abuse from people accusing her of trying to spread viruses.

“I told one guy that if I wanted to do this, I wouldn’t include my own details on the bottom so that people could find me!”

Who would include her details is a mystery.

She said that although the number of daily e-mails has dropped to “just a few hundred”, it never ends.

“If you try to ignore them, it just makes it worse.

“I am a very private person and this has made quite an impact on my life,” she said.

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