An FBI investigation is underway after more than $793,000 was stolen from Elkin Valley Baptist Church in North Carolina via an email phishing scam. The scammers posed as Landmark Construction and Development, a builder the church had contracted to construct their new worship center.
The scam email was sent to the church on a Friday in November, when the office was closed. Landmark Construction had sent an email with a payment invoice, immediately after which the scammers sent a nearly identical email.
When the church office staff arrived on Monday, they followed the prompts of the second email, wiring the funds as instructed. It was only after Landmark called the church several days later asking why they had yet to pay the invoice that the church realized they had been scammed.
Stephen Robbins, the church’s associate pastor, told the Elkin Tribune that the differences between the two emails were imperceptible, the latter of which replicated the placement of the company’s logos and even the previous emails in the thread.
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Investigators have not released any information regarding how scammers were able to compromise the church’s email to create such a convincing replica.
The funds have yet to be recovered.
The building project, the funds of which had been raised over the course of six years, was the culmination of a decade-long vision to build a gathering space with sufficient room for Elkin Valley Baptist Church’s growing needs.
Founded in 1884, the Southern Baptist church outgrew its previous sanctuary, which was built in 1954, and has been meeting in their gymnasium since 2016. For two months out of the year, the congregation meets in its old sanctuary, adding multiple services, so that a basketball outreach program can utilize the gym.
The church broke ground on the project in the Fall of 2022 and was expecting to move into the new facility by Spring of this year.
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However, with the funds stolen, construction on the project has been halted.