Thieves hitting churches across the nation

Church email scam

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) -Thieves are preying on the faith-based community through emails that look like a plea for help.

David Smitherman, a member of St. Mary’s of the Highlands, recently got a suspicious email.

"Telling me not to answer any emails or click on links that appear to come from the pastor," says Smitherman.

It says their email was hacked and thieves were now posing as church leadership and making a plea for money or gift cards. Smitherman, who’s also with the Better Business Bureau, thought it was just this one church, until others that he’s affiliated with started sending their own emails.

"And after I got it from my third church, I thought, you know this is something really odd!"

We went to Facebook to see if it was happening anywhere else. And in fact, social media is blowing up with warnings from real church leaders. These thieves are striking everywhere. There’s a post from a member of a Methodist church in Manteca, California. They say the fake email has a subject line that reads “Many blessings.”

St. John the Baptist in West Frankfurt, Illinois was hit, as was Fohl Memorial UMC in Navarre, Ohio. And the Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church in Toronto, Canada is saying they were a target.

“We’ve talked about this before. When you get any sort of communication from anybody that wants you to wire money or go buy gift cards, we know that’s a big red flag, we know it’s a scam,” says Smitherman.

We’ve seen con artists spoof telephone numbers, or impersonate friends or family on Facebook. Now they’re targeting a community known for its compassion and helping others in need.

“It’s typically a shocking thing, it’s your pastor {saying} I’m in trouble, send me money. And so they want to shock you with something terrible you’ll react to before you think about it. But don’t do it!”

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