The young Co. Donegal man who came to New York last year to undergo surgery for a new face was the victim of an email scam asking people for money.
Alan Doherty, 17, who was born without a chin and just recently completed a series of cosmetic operations at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York to give him a new one, was unaware that hackers had logged into his email account and sent everyone in his address book an email titled “Matter of Urgency.”
The email, sent on Monday, March 16, said the following, “Hi, how are you doing? Sorry I didn't inform you about my traveling to the U.K. for a program, am presently in London and am having some little difficulties here because I misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money and other valuable things were kept.”
It continued, “I will like you to assist me with a soft loan urgently with the sum of (£1500) to sort-out my hotel bills and to get me back home. I will appreciate whatever you can afford to assist me with, I'll pay you back as soon as I return, let me know if you can be of any help?”
There was no name signed at the bottom of the email but it didn’t matter -- the inbox said it was from Alan Doherty.
Furious that someone would do this to him, Doherty, via email, told the IrishCentral that he was “shocked with disbelief” when he discovered a hacker “sent untrue information about me from my own account.”
The morning of March 16 Doherty received an email from someone claiming to be from Hotmail.
“The person who wrote the email said they were from Hotmail and they were simply just checking people's e-mail accounts wanting password, and user-names,” he said.
Trusting this to be correct, Doherty emailed them on all the information they requested.
It wasn’t long before the young man was getting text messages and calls to his parents’ house in Letterkenny to see if he was okay.
Although most people assumed this was another Internet scam, Doherty was still angered that someone would take advantage of his situation like that.
“I can’t believe people out there somewhere do this,” he said.
Paul McBride, chairman for the Friends of Alan Doherty Fund in Donegal, was one of the first people on the phone to Doherty after he received the email.
McBride got a text message from a man in Co. Cork who had donated to Doherty’s fund in the past wondering if in fact Alan had a medical emergency and had to go to London.
“I assured him it was nonsense,” said McBride.
McBride, who checked his own personal email to discover he also was a recipient of the fraudulent email, got several similar calls the following day.
“This was simply a cruel hoax to blacken Alan’s name. It’s a shame the level people will stoop to,” said McBride.
Doherty explained that he called the local police station, which in turn reported the issue to Dublin. They are currently investigating the scam. However, Doherty is doubtful they will ever catch who did this.
“Sadly, I don’t think the Gardai (police) can do anything about it as the hacker has changed my password,” Doherty said. “It just makes me mad to think a hacker could tell lies to me, my relatives and friends.”
McBride said the police in Dublin said they have seen this sort of thing happen before.
As far as Doherty is aware, no one fell for the scam and made donations.