It's Cat in the church office! I hope everyone's doing well. You might have read my recent messages about the fact that our church is being targeted by scammers. It's important to stay informed because the scammers are getting smarter and they target people in many different ways. Just last week, I received an email from someone pretending to be my uncle asking for money. The person was NOT my uncle. Chances are good you've seen or heard of other scams similar to this. Unfortunately, churches are not immune to these types of scams.
There are some ways you can protect yourself from these scams.
First, our minister and church staff will NEVER contact you by email or text to ask you to purchase gift cards. The UU World Magazine has a great article about these scams. Click here to read it. This was published in 2019, so these scams have been around for awhile.
Second, the scammers usually say things like "it's urgent" or that they can't answer the phone. They want to keep you communicating by text message or email so you won't figure out that they're not who they say they are.
See the image below:
Note: That phone number is NOT the minister's phone number.
If you respond to that first message, the scammer writes:
"Glad to hear from you
I just need to get eBay gift card today for some women going through cancer at the hospital but I can't do that right now because of my busy schedule.
Can you get it from any store around you possibly now? and I will pay you back later in cash or check. Let me know if you can get the card for these patients.
This second message will hopefully ring some alarm bells. Why would the minister of a church need gift cards (for eBay or anything else) for someone in the hospital?
There is an emotional component to this scam as the person says this is for "cancer patients." This is a common ploy as these scams routinely employ an emotional hook, either charity/altruism (You are doing a good deed), or fear (You have to pay this immediately or a warrant will be issued, etc..).
The scammers add urgency to their messages ("act now") as the longer you delay in doing what you are asked, the more chance there is of you realizing none of it makes any sense.
If you are not sure if something is a scam, do NOT respond. Contact the church office by email or phone if something doesn't sound right. Always err on the side of caution. Remember, the church and its staff won't randomly reach out to you to ask you to purchase something.
Click here to read an email I sent out about scams last week.
Thank you to everyone who has reported the scam.