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Email Scams

Feb 17

Written by:
2/17/2019 12:00 AM  RssIcon

There is a recent scam going around that, unfortunately, involves priests. Up until recently, it was primarily targeted to parish staff members, but it seems like it has broadened out and is now targeting parishioners as well. The scam works something like this:

An email comes out of the blue with the priest’s name in the ‘sender’ file, with the subject along the lines of ‘a quick favor’ or ‘special request.’

The body of the email is usually pretty tame, but it asks for you to reply because I need a quick favor, as the subject line indicates. Once the reply is sent by the staff person or parishioner, the scammer asks for you to send a picture of the back of a gift card, usually an iTunes card, that ‘I’ need for my niece’s upcoming birthday, usually in the $50 to $100 amount.

Initially, it seems, the scammers built some type of webcrawler that would search parish websites for the pastor’s name and then search further for staff email addresses. It would then generate an email from a fake email account making this request. More recently, that webcrawler seems to be going back through older material that is posted on the parish site: bulletins, newsletters, announcements, etc., to look for various other email addresses to make the same false pitch. It is very frustrating and there is very little that I can do to stop it, unfortunately.

A few things to give you a heads up to a potential scam; not just in this case, but in general as well. First, verify the email address. My email is ‘frschnippel@sjnews or @corpuschristicommunity. While I do have a personal gmail account, I do not use that to conduct parish business except in rare circumstances. These scam emails come up ‘Fr. Kyle Schnippel,’ but the email address associated is something akin to ‘revpastor123@...’  Just a quick check on the actual address can give a quick alert.

Second, simply asking the question, ‘Does this make sense that he would ask me for this?’ Questions that seemingly come from out of left field, without much context and without any actual personal details are usually good signs that something is amiss. Asking a few critical questions can be helpful in verifying the request.

Finally, if all else fails, verify that request via a different channel: text, phone, different email, etc. This small step can save you lots of time and hassle, and not the least of all, money!

Scams like this are very frustrating, for all of us. It takes up time that we should be using to spread the Gospel; they prey on the faithful and the good work of the Church; they take advantage of the good relationship of a priest to his people, too. Sadly, as I mentioned above, there is not much I can do to stop these things from happening, other than write a column such as this. Priests around the diocese and around the country have been hit by these scams, and we are all as equally frustrated and annoyed.

In a strange twist, I have even gotten these scam emails! (Which, admittedly, did give me some joy in replying to them for a time!) Anyway, I’m praying that these emails stop, I’m praying for the conversion of those who send them, and I certainly praying, every day, for the holiness and sanctity of you, my family!

God Bless,
Fr. Kyle


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