Churches are often targeted for gift card scams. Scammers may pretend to be a pastor or priest and ask worshipers for gift card contributions for a worthy cause. Appeals are often made by email, but some use texts and phone calls, too.
The bogus emails often include the name of the local pastor and a legitimate looking email address. However, a closer look should raise some red flags. For example, the email address isn’t the one normally used by the church (stmarysbythesea.org). The imposter asks you to buy a popular gift card — frequently, iTunes, Google Play, or Amazon — and then asks for the gift card number and PIN on the back of the card. Those numbers let the scammer immediately get the money you loaded onto the card. DO NOT purchase gift cards in response to these bogus requests.
Similarly, an impostor may pose as a church member and send an email to other church members requesting the church directory. DO NOT send the church directory. Ignore the request if the email is from a bogus address, or if you are unsure about the sender’s legitimacy, you can refer the requester to the church office email—firstname.lastname@example.org. We too will be vigilant and only provide the directory to church members with valid email addresses.
FTC tracks such complaints so you are welcome to report such scams to them: ftc.gov/complaint. They posted an article on such scams here: https://consumer.ftc.gov/consumer-alerts/2019/07/worshipers-targeted-gift-card-scam.