The faithful of the Diocese of Venice need to be careful when responding to requests for financial help from Diocesan/Parish priests and staff.
It has once again been brought to the attention of the Diocese of Venice that parishioners have received text/email messages from people pretending to be clergy – including Bishop Frank J. Dewane – or parish staff, requesting donations in the form of gift cards and/or wire transfers.
These messages often come from text/emails that look similar to official Diocesan/Parish numbers or accounts and often greet the recipient by name and have the priest’s, Bishop’s, or staff member’s name in the from line and/or closing signature of the message. The recent SPAM claim that the priest/Bishop/staff member is in need of gift cards or money to aid a sick child or relative. The gift cards/money requested are often for gaming systems. The message then asks that the person purchase the gift card and text/email the redemption code and PIN number.
“This is a well-crafted and targeted attack on the Catholic Church across the country which continues to repeatedly affect our Diocese,” explained Diocese Information Technology Director Roger Navarro. “These text/email messages are fakes that should not be responded to. Whenever in doubt, people should call the parish or school and verify the validity of the request.”
It is Diocesan policy that neither the Bishop, nor priest or staff to request donations in the form of gift cards, PayPal, MoneyGram, etc. Without this awareness, some have responded to the spoofed messages, with bad consequences, including loss of funds.
It has been common that the email addresses used have been nearly identical to the actual Diocesan/parish email. but instead of being an ORG email it is from a gmail.com, yahoo.com or other common email service provider.
There is already an established process in place on how parishioners can make donations and participate in the life of the parish.
Whenever a parishioner is worried about any request for money from the parish or a priest, they should immediately call their parish and under no circumstances should they respond to these scam requests.
“The best defense against this sort of serious scam is to raise awareness in the community,” Navarro said. “Do not respond to the messages; do not click links in these messages; and do not open any attachments in these messages,” Navarro said. Warning notifications have been sent out to all Diocesan parishes several times in the past year, he added.
It is recommended that this information is shared immediately, as this situation requires vigilance on everyone’s part before anyone else becomes victims of this crime.