Home Christian News Scammers Pose as Pastor in Phishing Attempt; Law Enforcement Urges Vigilance

Scammers Pose as Pastor in Phishing Attempt; Law Enforcement Urges Vigilance

Pastor Hunter Roe Phishing Scam
Left: Screengrab via WBRC; Right: Photo by Priscilla Du Preez (via Unsplash)

A pastor is warning his congregation not to respond to cryptic messages from a scammer impersonating him, presumably looking for money. Hunter Roe, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bremen, Georgia, said that he became aware of the scam when he received a phone call from a congregant who was trying to verify whether a text message was really from him. 

“The text message was very, very sketchy,” Roe told WBRC, noting that the scammer had apparently done their homework before reaching out to the church member. 

“They could not talk on the phone, claimed it was me, because I was in a prayer meeting so that all I could do was text message,” Roe explained. 

Roe continued, “They knew I was a pastor, so they used the example of a prayer meeting to set the scene for why they were requesting information. They have actually spelled my name correctly, they spelled the lady’s name correctly that they texted. Whoever this scammer was, they had done their homework.”

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Such scams are not uncommon, said Garet Smitherman, Vice President of Communications at the Better Business Bureau. This texting ruse is simply the newest variation of phishing tricks that have been used by scammers since the earliest days of the Internet. 

To ensure you don’t fall into such a trap, Smitherman suggested, “Ask questions. Make people answer the questions, and then that can provide additional information and can provide you additional insight on whether or not something you might be dealing with is real or not.”

Churches are often targeted for such scams, given the relative high trust churchgoers have in their pastors, as well as the lack of technological fluency that is common among many of the aging members of congregations. 

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Scammers posing as pastors will often reach out to staff members, volunteers, and churchgoers via email or text message, asking them to purchase digital gift cards for them.

In the case of Bartholomew Orr, a Mississippi pastor, scammers replicated his profile on CashApp, resulting in the loss of hundreds of dollars that congregants intended to gift him on his birthday in August.