MLA's email account accessed by fraudsters

Eric McCarthy
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Robert Henderson is not stranded in the Philippines

Tourism Minister Robert Henderson

ALBERTON — P.E.I. Tourism and Culture minister Robert Henderson is not stranded in Manila, Philippines and, therefore, is not soliciting for donations for getting home.

Henderson's cellphone started buzzing around 8 a.m. Tuesday, right around the time people in the contacts list of his personal email started receiving a tale of woe.

Supposedly, he lost his wallet while sightseeing in Manila and his hotel was withholding his passport until he could cover his accommodations expense. He would pay back the $2,000 he needed as soon as he got home.

There was, of course, no truth to the email and it didn't originate from the provincial cabinet minister. In fact, he was en route to Charlottetown for his regular Tuesday morning cabinet meeting when his phone started ringing.

Henderson quickly concluded that someone had hacked into his private email account.

More troubling than the fake message, though, was the realization that the hacker had emptied his email account's address book.

"It's a rather helpless feeling, I guess, is the best way to put it," said Henderson of his inability to warn his 900 to 1,000 contacts about the scam.

IT experts were trying to recover his email list.

"It's quite an inconvenience to those individuals," he acknowledged. "I hope everybody understands (it's a scam) and hopefully nobody gets caught up in any kind of a problem here."

Henderson said response from recipients was swift. "I've had probably 50 phone calls," he said.

"The positive side is people do seem to be legitimately concerned for the welfare of their MLA." At least one person apparently responded to the email, and Henderson suspects that was not a good thing to do.

Sgt. Andrew Blackadar, the RCMP's media relations officer, shares that suspicion.

"A lot of times people who are out there running these scams do just want to bait somebody into replying so that they get an extra email address to use, maybe, for fraudulent activities down the road," Blackadar said.

He advises anyone who receives such malicious emails to delete them immediately.

"Then go right into the trash and delete it out of their trash, shut their computer down and start the computer up again to get it out of the cache memory and, just do not reply to it; just completely ignore it and that should hopefully work."

In Henderson's case, the email contained a home phone number and cellphone number that were very close to his actual numbers. Blackadar said that's intended to trick concerned individuals into responding by email when the phone number doesn't work. Once email contact is established, the scammer might ask the sender to quietly transfer money by Western Union to an address in Manila.

It would not be Henderson collecting at the other end, though.

Police do pursue such cases, but Blackadar admits things get complicated when the scams originate in countries with which Canada does not have cooperation agreements.

Organizations: RCMP, Western Union

Geographic location: Manila, Philippines, Charlottetown Canada

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • bitter islander
    February 06, 2013 - 17:06

    gotta do something to get that debt down so run with it lol

  • RG
    February 06, 2013 - 15:36

    It's a free public account. These get hacked all the time. Doesn't he have a work email account he should be using instead which would have additional security features to prevent this kind of thing from happening?

  • Mark
    February 06, 2013 - 15:08

    Well, how does it feel to get ripped off? Maybe you know now how every Islander feels about what your government is doing to them.

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    February 06, 2013 - 15:08

    It would appear that the Guardian is censoring some comments. AWE, POOR LITTLE ROBBIE HENDERSON.

  • PEI resident
    February 06, 2013 - 13:43

    Its not a very nice thing to happen to anyone .How would you like if it happened to you .I really dont think people should be joking about this If you dont have any thing nice to say dont take time out of your busy day to put people down .Might be a good idea to think before you speak .I hope Mr Henderson gets His emails back to normal have a good day .

  • intobed
    February 06, 2013 - 12:52

    "Yahoo" email account. That says it all. I encourage anyone who has a Yahoo email account to immediately get a Gmail address, and forward your new address to your close friends. Then cancel the Yahoo address. Change all the passwords you use to something different as well. Get a Hotmail email account, and use that when filling out any online forms and other locations that want an email address. Use your Gmail only for trusted friends.

  • Ha ha
    February 06, 2013 - 11:54

    ""It's a rather helpless feeling, I guess, is the best way to put it," said Henderson of his inability to warn his 900 to 1,000 contacts about the scam." His inability to warn is 1000ish email contacts about the scam? Oh no. Someone has emailed a scam to all the people I have in my email address book. If only I had some way of contacting all the people in my email address book. Whatever shall I do?

  • johnny cash
    February 06, 2013 - 11:42

    what will the taxpayers be billed to get better email security for our (dis?)honorable mla's. Always a price for this stuff.

  • fraudsters doesn't narrow it down in Liberals
    February 06, 2013 - 10:46

    Accountability is unknown, Public accounts is a sham, the entire Liberal team are fraudsters in my opinion. Looking fro fraudsters? Start with Henderson's closest contacts on his own list as suspects. funny eh?

  • Good for him
    February 06, 2013 - 10:21

    Its good that he's not really in Manilla-I doubt any taxpayer in PEI would send him money to get home.