Please read carefully: No priest will ever ask you to text or email him gift cards. Never, ever. Not in a million years.
Thieves pretending to be your pastor and asking you to buy gift cards is a rampant scam. I first saw this happen four years ago, but now it has become a weekly and even daily scam. Every week some members of St. Mary’s get an email(s) or texts claiming to be from me asking for a favor. When you respond, you get a message about how busy I am but need gift cards for people in the hospital.
These emails and texts are never, ever from me. If you look closely at the address it comes from, it is not my email, or my phone number. Sometimes they create a fake gmail account with one letter off from mine. Other times they are lazy and use a generic email. Other times they text. Google and Apple can’t seem to stop this and they will not refund any of the money stolen from you. The FBI is aware, but these are not coming from the anywhere in this country and the nature of the internet is making it impossible to stop.
If you send gift cards to the scammers they are redeemed immediately and the money sold on the black market. It is robbery, plain and simple. Parishioners have been robbed of anywhere from $300 to more than $1000.
So please remember:
• No priest of this or any parish will ever ask you to email/text gift cards codes or cash or banking info.
• Never feel pressured to give by phone, email or text. If you’re ever unsure, it’s safest to end the conversation and call the parish directly.
• Never pay over the phone and never send payment information via text or email.
• Be wary of false urgency. Scammers may try to create a sense of urgency to persuade you to do what they’re asking immediately.
• You do not have to answer people who are trying to scam you. Pray for them, but don’t respond.
• Trust Faith direct, this is the only company we use for electronic donations.
I hope that helps, and I pray that everyone in the parish is aware of this blight! I’ll say a Hail Mary for these scammers: may the Blessed Mother break their internet and get them real jobs. 🙂
When Saint Mary’s collects gift cards for the needy, it is done very differently, with you dropping off physical cards at the parish office or in the collection basket. That way you can be sure that your gifts are actually going to folks in need.
pax et bonum,
Father John Mosimann