Protect against email and text scams

Over the past two years, scammers have gotten increasingly more sophisticated with targeting people via email. Recently, we've heard reports of scammers texting people in our diocese. It can feel so violating to have this happen. Unfortunately, the diocese has looked into filing reports and if any actions can be taken. The answer is there’s not a lot of action we can take, but we can continue to provide education and resources so people know what to do when they get an email that is suspicious.

Please talk with church staff and volunteers about scam emails

Have you recently received an "urgent" email from someone impersonating Bishop Marc or a clergy colleague? Email scams are getting increasingly sophisticated, and we are among a number of dioceses seeing an uptick in cyber thieves using fake email addresses to impersonate Episcopal rectors, vicars, and even bishops. It appears that the scammers target church members and leaders who have their email addresses listed on the church's website.

Communications Project Manager Dani Scoville has created this helpful flyer with a few quick tips on how to identify a scam email. Please consider sharing this flyer with your staff, volunteers, and congregants and also posting the flyer wherever you post paper resources. Below are the best practices listed on the flyer:

Protect against scam emails. Keep an eye out for:
  1. Money or information requests — Clergy and the bishop will never ask for money, gift cards, or personal information via email.
  2. Urgent language — Does the email have vague but urgent language? (Ex: "I'm in a meeting right now, but please send me the gift cards as quickly as possible!")
  3. Fraudulent email addresses — Check the email address against what is listed on the church or diocesan website. We haven't yet had a reported case of someone's real email address being hacked and them being inpersonated, it has always been a fake email address.
Not sure if it's a scam?

You can always call your church or diocesan office to verify if the email is real. During this season of shelter-in-place, we recommend you go to the website of your church or diocese and use that email to reach out to the person in question to see if their request is real.

These best practices can also be applied to text scams.

Do not reply to suspicious text messages. Instead reach out to your rector, diocesan staff, or church staff directly via the contact information listed on their website.

Want to file a complaint?

Federal Trade Commission is aware that worshipers are being targeted by gift card scams: "This time, scammers are pretending to be a pastor, rabbi, priest, imam, or bishop. They’re asking worshipers for gift card contributions for a worthy cause. Appeals are often made by email, but we’ve heard people are also getting texts and phone calls, too."

LinkRead more here and see where you can report the scam.

Even if you haven't heard of this happening in your church, please still talk to your staff and congregants about scam emails, texts, and phone calls. Some people have fallen prey to this scam but haven't told anyone because they feel shame.