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Crooks target church congregations

Posted at 8:42 AM, Nov 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-19 09:42:30-05

Crooks are now targeting people who go to church and they're making off with a lot of cash, by posing as pastors!

It's a sophisticated con, that caught one woman off guard, and could catch you if you're not careful.

Mary says, " I know it could happen to anybody if it happened to me."

71-year-old Mary Giffin has a PhD, but was a bit off her game in early June recovering from the flu and a bad fall.

"I was, in retrospect, in a pretty vulnerable state when I got an email from the pastor."

Someone posed as her pastor, and asked her to buy gift cards for a charity.

She trusted the emails, purchased the cards at her grocery store, and then lost hundreds of dollars.

"My heart dropped," says Mary.

We've covered similar frauds, but this one is different in the way it was carried out.

It appears the crooks did their homework before contacting the people at the church.

Mary says, "When she asked me for a favor in an email, and it came from her name, I didn't think anything of it."

They used the pastor's real name and created a Gmail account.

The cards were supposedly for "Women going through cancer at the hospital."

"She does the kind of ministry that the scammer described. She goes to hospitals," says Mary.

They used the tone of a church leader.

"They knew the kind of voice that a pastor has. They used the kind of approach and the kind of vocabulary that a pastor uses," says Mary.

And if you're looking for language barriers in the emails..

"I've taught English all my life. I know what scam email looks like and I usually question things. I usually doubt and question," says Mary.

Sue McConnell, with the BBB, says, "Now the scammers are using professional writers or software to correct their grammar. So, it's not that easy to tell."

And its not just churches, Sue McConnell from the better business bureau tells us the "Business Email Compromise" schemes have raked in more than $3 billion since 2016.

"The volume of losses was very stunning."

A recent BBB report says this kind of fraud has tripled over the last three years.

And in 2018, 80 percent of businesses received at least one of these emails.

Sue says, "Report it because you could help somebody else not become of this fraud."

That's why Mary is stepping forward to warn others.

And she has a message for the crooks.

"Do you have any idea how you're messing up people's lives? Cut it out!"

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