Email scams begin to target church officials

David Burke

7/12/2018

The email received by the treasurer of a church in the Dodge City District looked official and sounded ominous.

“As of today, we have no record of you submitting w2's (sic) for the tax year of 2017,” it read. “Note: Please re-enter and submit your W2s as soon as possible. Once you have submitted the W2s, please provide me with the WFID in order to avoid any potential late penalties.”

Church members noticed several red flags – the government contacts people by mail, not email; the Social Security symbol had been added; and the only contact information was a bogus phone number – and ignored the message.

Scott Brewer, Great Plains Conference treasurer and director of administrative services, said that he daily gets bogus email from “the bishop” asking to wire money.

“Scammers and emails that people are receiving are becoming more and more sophisticated all the time,” Brewer said. “Scammers will go onto our websites, and they will find the names of people who are treasurer or finance chair or office manager, and they’ll try to engage in these sorts of scams.”

The scams, Brewer said, include someone posing as a friend, co-worker or trusted authority in need of money or private information.

Whenever an email is received asking for personal information or money, Brewer said, the recipient should contact that person immediately. Take note of the email address, since scammers can make alias identities.

Do not, Brewer said, reply to the email, “even to say ‘I know you’re a scammer.’”
“You’re then inviting them to purport to be you,” said Brewer, who knows of other United Methodist conferences where a reply ballooned to a major problem.
Brewer said scams have been going on for hundreds of years, and technology has expediated the problem.
“Unfortunately, it’s only going to get worse,” he said. “As long as there are people who are going to fall for it, there are going to be people who are going to try it.”
 
David Burke, communications department, can be contacted at dburke@greatplainsumc.org.
 


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