A criminal, or criminal gang, has set up email addresses in the names of priests of our diocese, and is using them to contact people in order to deceive them into parting with money, pretending to be the priest whose name they are using. Sometimes they ask the parishioner to buy a gift card, pretending that it’s for a niece or a nephew. Sometimes they pretend they’ve been robbed or injured overseas and need money to get back home or to pay medical bills.
The diocesan offices warn us that the senders are addressing the email recipients by name, and with plausible stories. If you get an email claiming to be from a priest, seeking money or giving instructions to pay a bill or purchase a gift card or voucher, regard it with utmost suspicion.
Be especially wary of any address that contains the word “yahoo”, “gmail”, “hotmail” or “googlemail” after the @ sign.
The criminals may also seek to obtain information for exploitation at a later date.
Fr Martin’s name and Fr Don’s name are among those the scammers are using, as well as Fr Greg Tobin. Information on this sort of crime can be found at GetSafeOnline, and the Citizens Advice Bureau can tell you what to do if you’ve been scammed.