Name: Joseph Edwards
Died: August 6, 2014
Age at death: 17
Cause of death: Suicide (Hanging)
Location: Windsor, Berkshire, UK
Joseph Edwards was a 17-year-old A-level (Ed.: College preparatory) student when he received a scam e-mail. The e-mail claimed he had been looking at illegal web sites and, when he fell for the scam, locked his computer and demanded £100 in exchange for unlocking it. He "would never have done anything to upset" his mother or sister, and being accused of a crime by the scam e-mail upset him badly.
Desperate and frightened, Joseph hanged himself from a bannister at his house. His mother, who still isn't sure that Joseph "really understood" the implications of hanging himself, is now raising awareness about online scams.
Police say it's very difficult to trace the people responsible for scams like this. They're known as "ransomware" scams, and typically trick the user into downloading a virus that will lock their computer by claiming that the user has done something illegal, and then demand payment online.
Editor's note: I debated with myself about including this one because the perpetrator of the scam intended only theft, not distress great enough to end in suicide. However, they did specifically target people naive enough to fall for their scam, and autistic people are in that group whether they thought about it or not. This is a case where someone intended to cause harm, targeted people who were particularly vulnerable, and ended up causing more harm than they meant to cause. If it had been done in person, it would have been the equivalent of accidentally killing a mugging victim chosen because they seemed disabled.
Panicked teen hanged himself after receiving ransomware scam email
Autistic A-level student, 17, hanged himself after being sent a fake police email claiming he was being investigated for having indecent images and demanding £100
Fake Police Email Scam: In Memory of Joseph Edwards
Ransomware on the Rise