Police: Scammers imitate priests via email to defraud area congregations

The methods of getting a Mac infected are the same as it is for Windows: malicious downloads, rigged websites, spam, phishing scams, malicious social media posts or infected “free” downloads, to name a few. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)(AP/Kathy Willens)
WASHINGTON — The Archdiocese of Washington and of Arlington are working with investigators to track down a phishing scam. In it, police said the scammers pose as priests and pastors to try and defraud the faithful.

The scam was detected in the D.C. region a month ago, and continues to pop up. The latest incident is in Prince William County where Officer Nathan Probus said two people fell victim to phishing.

“They are receiving emails from fake email addresses as we verified with the diocese. They do not use Gmail or solicit from email,” Probus said.

The scam requests came from fake Gmail addresses made to look like they were sent from the victim’s priest.

Ed McFadden with the Archdiocese of Washington said he knows of a priest imitated in D.C., in Southern Maryland and in Arlington, Virginia.

He said the first email indicates the priest or pastor wants to talk to you or needs your help with something and the second email asks the victim to purchase iTunes cards, or wire money with urgency.

“So the scammers are trying to use the emotions of the victims to try to solicit funds, whether it be through donations, iTunes cards or wiring money,” said Probus.

Never reply with personal information to an email or phone call asking for donations, he said. Hang up and contact the agency directly to ensure a donation is reaching its intended destination.

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Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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