Imposter Scams Exploit Religious Faithful
Swindlers often impersonate authority figures as a way to trick people into turning over money or personal data. In a disturbing trend, they are posing as religious leaders and sending messages that deceive innocent congregants.
Scammers have pretended to be pastors, rabbis, priests, imams and bishops and targeted Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims. News accounts have documented the fraud in Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, Wisconsin, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee and Nevada.
According to AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, this scam has become increasingly common during the pandemic. Fake clergy send emails or texts and ask parishioners to send gift cards for a seemingly good cause. “These impostors cajole unsuspecting congregants into spending hundreds of dollars on gift cards, supposedly for people in need, then abscond with the loot,” AARP reported.
Imposter emails come from unofficial email addresses and may include mistakes in grammar and spelling. Watch out for those red flags. One such email (with mistakes in punctuation) began: “Good morning, how are you? Do you have a moment I have a request I need you to handle discreetly. I am going into a meeting now, no calls so just reply to my email.”
The public is encouraged to report these and other scams by clicking here.