Scammers posing as priests attempt to swindle Auckland Catholics


Scammers are posing as priests and contacting parishioners, the Catholic Diocese of Auckland says.

It is warning Auckland parishioners that scammers are asking for gift cards and money.

The Bishop’s office says the texts usually start with the name of the so-called priest. Sometimes parishioners’ names are included.

Describing a typical text from the scammers, the office says: “The text will say they’re in a meeting, so don’t phone, but text back and that your help is critical and highly appreciated.

“If you respond, they will ask you to do something for them, for example buy gift cards and they claim they’ll pay you back.

“The scams are very good and don’t always include bad grammar or spelling errors like they did before, but often rely on urgency so that you don’t think before replying.”

Speaking from the Bishop’s office, Alison Munro says a number of people have been in touch saying they have received the messages.

One had used a few hundred dollars of parish funds before realising it was a scam.

”Those affected were contacted by someone pretending to be their parish priest and addressing them by their own first name.

“If the person replies, they ask them to purchase gift cards as a show of appreciation for dedicated staff, saying they will be reimbursed. They say to keep it confidential so it can be a surprise and instruct them to email photos of the front and back of the cards.”

The Bishops’s office email warns parishioners to carefully check email addresses and phone numbers. Don’t click on unknown links, the office urges.

Priests will not go round begging for goods.

“Priests will not be asking you to buy them anything. If anyone is unsure, ring the parish office number before replying.”

The scam has previously been reported by churches in the United States.

Simon Gallagher, manager of consumer services at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says scammers constantly evolve their tactics to make their scams harder to spot.

”They often work hard to appear trustworthy. Scams most often come through unexpected contact such as a phone call, an email or a text.”

Anyone who thought they’d been a victim of fraud should contact police on 105, Gallagher says.

A police spokesperson said they were not aware of any reports relating to the scam.


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