MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Joining us this morning is Jamie Harding with AARP Alabama, Chad Petri talked to her over Zoom last week. As more churches have focused on online worship in the pandemic that’s opened the door to scammers we’re talking about the clergy imposter scam
Guest: We talk about imposter scams a lot, we talk about people posing as the IRS, law enforcement, all kinds of imposter scams. This is a new one. This one involves clergy, unfortunately, no church, synagogue is immune from this. This is happening across the board and we’ve gotten some very sad stories about it, unfortunately. We want people to know about this, some churches are already in touch with people, it’s really ticked up in frequency during the pandemic unfortunately and that is partly due to the fact that a lot of people are worshiping remotely these days.
Chad: How can it manifest itself? In what form might you encounter it?
Guest: Generally it’s going to be by email, sometimes by text and the subject line will look like it’s coming from your pastor. Keep in mind, it’s very easy for people to get that information most churches make it public. There may be information on social media that shows you who members are. So they can easily get that information. It starts with “can you do me a favor?” Or something along those lines in the subject line. It will look like it will come from someone who is a church leader. They’ll send congregants a very sad story: someone is in the hospital and needs financial help or perhaps someone has lost their job, that’s happened to a lot of folks during the pandemic. That kind of thing. The next thing is the story about why they can’t be present to help. They may have to be out of town for some reason or something similar they tweak their methods to see what works best for every situation. So they can’t be there in person to help and that’s why they’re reaching out to you and other members of the congregation.
Chad: How do folks in a congregation protect themselves?
Guest: The method most often is they ask for payment is with gift cards, they can be cash gift cards, of some kind or another, we see them in truck stops or pharmacies all the time. We want people to be aware of the method they use. Anytime anyone asks you for payment anytime anyone asks for payment by gift card it’s a scam 100% of the time. There are no exceptions to that. We want people to stay in touch with the latest information by going to AARP.org/fraud. That’s our fraud watch network page that’s a free service to people of all ages You don’t have to be a member to use it we keep that updated with podcasts and information on the newest frauds and scams