Church leaders say scammers are targeting parishioners, so they want you to remain vigilant
Many people consider their places of worship a sacred space. But scammers don’t think that way, and are honing in on parishioners.
They’ll pretend to be their pastors, sending texts and emails asking for help.
Rev. Charlotte Frantz, bridge pastor at Peace Church in Duluth, explained, “They typically come in stages. The first one will say I’m in a meeting, and I have something that I want you to take care of discreetly. Can you be available? When the person responds, the scammers ask them to go get gift cards.”
It’s been happening enough over the years that the churches have a response to their congregations that can go out, warning them.
Still, the thieves end up catching someone once in awhile. “The scammers are very savvy. They use the kind of language that genuinely sounds pastoral, that sounds like us,” Rev. Carla Bailey told us. She’s from Pilgrim Congregational Church.
It’s not clear how the scammers get email lists or phone numbers. Church leaders said they’ve been putting security measures in place on computers. They want to protect their parishioners, from these cybercriminals.
“It’s insidious because it’s playing on the trust people have in their pastor,” shared Rev. Dianne Loufman, from First Lutheran.
It’s making it more challenging when leaders do have something legitimate to focus on.
“I recently sent a text out asking for genuine help for a family, and the person called me immediately because they thought it was a scam,” Rev. Jeanine Alexander from First United Methodist Church told us.
Still they keep the faith, of course. And just ask that you be extra careful with your cash.
“I just want people, if they get that kind of text or email from their religious leader, to check it out before they respond.” Frantz said.
Bailey added, “We want to help people be shrewd and as wise as serpents.”
Duluth police are seeing an uptick in scams in general. And in a vast majority of cases, the money goes overseas.
Investigator Ryan Temple shared this advice.
- Slow down and verify these calls before they make any purchases or send money.
- Gift cards should only be bought for people you know.
- Never buy them and give the codes off the back to anyone.
You can report to the Federal Trade Commission: https://www.ftc.gov/