Congregations of various denominations have reported that their members are receiving scam emails that are requesting gift card donations for a charitable cause. Religious groups and congregations are becoming easy targets for these types of scams.
Phishing is a form of “social engineering,” whereby a hacker with bad intentions sends an email (or text or phone call) pretending to be someone the recipient trusts and asks the recipient to take an action which can have adverse effects. In the case of targeting congregation members of churches, the scammer disguises themselves as the pastor or a lay leader in the church. Sometimes, scammers request money. Other times, they invite the recipient to click a link or open an attachment that can trigger malicious code.
A good rule of thumb with emails you’re not expecting is to reach out to the sender through another method of communication. Do not reply to an email request. Do not click on a link, or send money, gift cards, or provide checking account or credit card information without clarifying from the trusted source.
For more on this particular gift card scam, read this article from The Christian Post.
To get a better sense of what to look for when receiving unsolicited emails, try this Google Phishing Quiz.
Hackers are getting more sophisticated every day. The best defense is to pause and look for warning signs before responding to any unsolicited email, text, or phone call.
If someone in your contact list reports that an email has been sent appearing as you, it’s advisable to alert your entire contact list. You may use this message as a warning:
I’ve been informed that today an email that appeared to be me was sent out to many of you stating I am traveling and needed money in the form of gift cards.
I am not traveling. I do not need gift cards. This is a scam. Please do NOT reply to any email you received requesting gift cards, either from me or other people. Please do NOT send gift cards to the scammers sending these emails.
If you need help or have questions, please call Laura in the church office.