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An Essex police officer who inadvertently forwarded an aged internet hoax is now dealing with hundreds of calls and emails from concerned women - the hoax looks more genuine now that it comes from a proper police address.

Detective Constable Simon Lofting sent the mail on to senior officers to check if it was genuine but it got forwarded on.

The story warned women not to accept business cards from strangers because they could be coated with "Burundanga" - which is "four times greater than date rape drug". The hoax mail first circulated in May this year, according to Snopes - one of several debunking sites which warn the story is false.

Lofting told the Telegraph: "It's a complete hoax. There's nothing we can do about it but it's causing me a lot of problems.

"I'm getting hundreds of calls and about 50 emails a day, it's gone worldwide."

Lofting shouldn't feel too bad - the urban myth has fooled other officers too.

At the beginning of this month Niagara Regional Police forwarded on a version of the message, and also had to deal with dozens of calls. That version involved a woman at a gas station accepting a card from a man offering his services as a painter. When she got back in her car she felt dizzy and breathless but managed to raise the alarm and scare the men off before they attacked her.

Burundanga does exist - its an extract from the Datura plant and has been used by thieves in Columbia. But it must be ingested to take effect - touching it is not enough. ®

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