Email fraudsters target priest after visit to embassy

James Hayden

James Hayden

SERIOUS concerns surrounding the leaking of private information of potential visitors to Nigeria have been expressed after an email scam attempt on a well-known priest.

Fr Sean MacDonagh, who is a renowned eco-theologian and author on environmental matters, was targeted by computer hackers last week after he visited the Nigerian Embassy in Dublin to obtain a visa for a visit to the African country next month.

The fraudsters gained access to his email account and sent out bogus e-mails to all the contacts in Fr MacDonagh's address book which claimed that the Tipperary native was stranded in Nigeria after leaving his passport and money in a taxi and needed money to pay a hotel bill.

The Columban priest only learned of the scam after he was contacted by friends who knew he had not left for Nigeria.

Fr MacDonagh said the scam began when he was asked to provide private information to his email provider, Hotmail.

"I visited the Nigerian Embassy in Dublin to get a visa for my trip to Nigeria in April," he said.

"I was requested to leave my passport and other documents, including a form which included a request for phone numbers and my email account. On Wednesday, I received what appeared as an email from Hotmail asking me to update my email within 48 hours or face losing my hotmail number. I complied and included my password.

"On Friday I began getting messages from friends of mine that they had received an email from me supposedly from Abuja in Nigeria stating that I had left my documents and money in a taxi and that I needed money urgently to pay my hotel bill."

Last night the Nigerian embassy declined to comment on the matter.