From the Pastor: Email Scam Hits Home!
Last May we received word that several the names of several priests had been “used” in email scams looking for money. I warned you about it and told you that if you receive an email from me asking for money for any emergency situation, don’t buy anything and don’t pay anything, for it is certainly not me asking for it. This week a parishioner received just such an email using my name in a scam. Here is what the first email said, using a Gmail account with the name of Rev. John Nolan:
I need a favor from you, email me as soon as you get this message.
Rev. Edwin Palka
There is no reason for me to send a message using someone else’s email account, but it is easy enough to overlook something like that when going through emails. The parishioner answered, asking how he could help, and the response came back from the same Gmail account stating:
Can you be able to help me get an iTunes gift card worth $500 at $100 or $50 denominations for a friend of mine going through cancer in the hospital. He needs the cards to download his favorite music and videos to boost his confidence on his next phase of surgery and fight over cancer which he's going to undergo today but i can't do this now.
Very strange! Yes, it was “signed” by me instead of Rev. John Nolan, though it was from “his” account. Thankfully, the parishioner contacted me instead of sending any money or buying iTunes gift cards. It certainly doesn’t seem likely that I would ask somebody to purchase music for a sick friend instead of, say, a prayer book, now does it? But whatever he needed, whether music or a prayer book or a chocolate milkshake, I think that I could pry open my wallet and purchase it myself. When I warned the daily Mass people about it, one of the ladies told me that the iTunes cards can be used as currency in some places. Go figure. Should you get one of these types of messages using my name, please let me know and forward a copy to me, for I would like to see it and see if I can find any common connection between the recipients. I highly recommend that, should you get an email from any priest, especially from me, or any parishioner or friend, or any anybody at all, asking for something that seems just a tad bit wonky, please don’t fall for it. Really. This is especially true if the email uses bad grammar, as an infamous fake Nigerian prince of email scam notoriety does while trying to “give” greedy people millions of dollars.
There are several priests named “Rev. John Nolan” out there, and I don’t believe I know any of them but we may be connected through something like the Knights of Columbus or the Association of Ornery Priests. Scammers may look for connections to increase the odds of successfully bilking people of their money. For instance, email addresses are free and it is easy to get one with a priest’s name so that it sounds legitimate. People are often pretty, shall I say, stupid, when sending or forwarding emails to groups of people and they don’t hide the multiple email addresses of the recipients. That allows anyone on the list or anyone who intercepts the list to then know that there are connections between all of these people. Seeing a priest’s name on the list then allows a bad guy to contact all of the people on the list, who would, most likely, know him and trust him, pretending to be the priest and scamming them out of money. So if this is how the scammer has connected one parishioner’s email to my name (though I am just speculating that this may be the case), others who were on the same email list might have also been targeted or might be targeted in the near future. I have, over the years, received scam requests multiple times from people I know, mostly from Yahoo or AOL accounts which were hacked, similar to this: “Help! I am stranded in a foreign country and my wallet and passport were stolen. Please wire me money right away! I will repay you as soon as I get back.” Imagine receiving something like this from your pastor, perhaps with an added line such as “I was leading a pilgrimage, which is why I am in Nigeria, and got separated from the group because I couldn’t board the plane without my passport” or something like that to “personalize” it. It might sound convincing. You might be worried sick about poor, dear Father. You might be flattered that he thought you were such close friends that he felt confident to ask for your help in such a dire situation. You might not think that he would have contacted family or maybe even the bishop before asking you for money. You may be taken for a sucker. Please don’t fall for it.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka