There are two common email scams occurring with increasing frequency. These scams hurt churches in two ways, by stealing finances and by breaking congregational trust. What are these common email scams? What can or should you do about them? What should you do if you find yourself a victim of a scam?
2 Common Email Scams
Each one of the two common email scams appear to come from the pastor or a trusted member of church leadership.
The first scam directs emails at church staff. In it, “the pastor” requests the recipient to send funds or gift cards with PINs. This has been going on for a few years and has caught many churches by surprise. The good news, if there is any, is that the scam is usually only targeted at staff.
The second scam is worse because it targets congregants. Seeming to be from “the pastor” or a trusted church leader, congregants are asked to wire funds or send gift cards with PINs. This one hurts more because it becomes more widely known in your congregation than the first type of scam. It can break the trust that congregants have in the church’s communication systems. It is such a serious threat that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission posted a blog about it on July 29, 2019.
How Do the Scams Happen?
Churches want to be open and welcoming communities, especially for those who they are trying to reach. So churches publish staff structures and biographies on their websites. This is a good thing that can unfortunately also arm predators with the details needed to launch a valid-appearing campaign. A predator might even email the pastor to try and get a response–and thus capture the pastor’s email signature!