NORTHSIDE TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin (Lab) has told of his embarrassment after he became the latest victim of an email scam that attempts to extort money from recipients.
The Dublin North Central TD said he became aware of the scam after he received a number of phone calls from colleagues.
The scam attempted to falsely represent Deputy Ó Ríordáin. The email purporting to be from Deputy Ó Ríordáin reads: “I made a trip to Barcelona, Spain, and had my
bag stolen from me with cash and credit cards in it.
“I've made contact with my bank but they are not providing a quick solution. I’m physically ok and fine but I'm urgently in need of some money to sort my self out of this predicament, I will pay back as soon as I return.
“Kindly let me know if you would be able to help me out so I can forward you the details required for a wire transfer via the Western Union as it is the best option to send money to me.
“I don't yet have a local phone (still gathering my bearings and such), so email is
probably the best form of contact for now. I will expect your response soon.”
In an effort to make the email seem legitimate, the scammer cheekily signs off using Deputy Ó Ríordáin’s name and title.
Speaking to Northside People about the sinister incident, Deputy Ó Ríordáin said it was very embarrassing to hear that people received this sort of email in his name.
“I received a number of calls from people warning me about it,” he told Northside People.
“I’ve since changed the passwords on my account and we are making enquiries as to how this happened.
“Unfortunately these things are fairly common but it’s not the kind of stuff I have time to be dealing with. I’ve got more important things to be looking after.”
Deputy Ó Ríordáin explained how he has since forwarded an email around to a number of addresses in his online contact book advising them not to give money to the scammer.
“This is not the kind of thing that people want to see,” he stated. I’ve notified everybody not to pay any attention to the (hoax) email.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for IT company Definitive Solutions said the ability to spoof an email account is remarkably easy.
“People believe email addresses are sacrosanct – they’re not,” he warned. “The email transport system is inherently insecure by its design.
“There have been a number of modifications to email accounts over the years, whereby a number of security features have been bolted on.”
However, the spokesman explained that not everyone has the correct security cautions in place.
He said that in order to prevent an email account from being scammed, account users need to have a Sender Policy Framework (SPF) in place.
The SPF is an email validation system that attempts to block email spam by verifying sender IP addresses.
However, he said the best thing a person can do is to change their passwords regularly.
“To prevent mail being spammed, people need to use lower and higher case letters, as well as symbols, in their passwords,” he told Northside People.
The spokesman cautioned people not to use the same passwords for a variety of online accounts such as Facebook, Twitter and email.
“Some people use the same password for all of their accounts, but if one account is hacked then there’s the possibility that they could all be,” he added.