I first warned you about this particular scam in June of 2017, but it has recently resurfaced in many places around the country. Recently the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Diocese of Austin, Texas, Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania and the Archdiocese of Miami, Florida have all been targeted by this scam. Generally in this scam, local church, synagogue or mosque members receive what appear to be emails from their religious leaders asking them to make contributions through gift cards and credit cards. In 2017 the scams primarily asked targeted victims to wire money to accounts and people named in the emails. The emails come from email addresses that appear at first glance to be that of the local religious leaders, but a closer inspection will disclose that it is coming from a different email provider than what their religious leader.
Often, the scammers harvest information from church websites to make their phony requests appear legitimate.
The key to protecting yourself from this scam is to first be skeptical whenever you get a request to wire money or make a payment through gift cards because once money has been wired, it is gone forever which is why it is a favorite method of payment for scammers. As for gift cards, once you provide the numbers from the gift cards, the scammers utilize the gift cards to make purchases that they quickly sell in order to get cash. No religious institution solicits gift card payments nor does the IRS which is why when someone posing as a religious institution or the IRS asks for a payment through gift cards you can be sure it is a scam. The second thing that we all should do is to always confirm the legitimacy of any request for a donation of any kind before making a payment.
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