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Phishing scammers target parishioners by pretending to be priests, archbishop
Just when you thought scam artists have run out of creative ways to get your money, here’s a new one.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth is warning parishioners to be on the lookout for phony emails from local priests, asking for “favours.”
Some scammers have even been impersonating the Archbishop.
"Emails - or fake emails - were being used to solicit favours … money, gift cards, and they were basically using fake emails with the names of several of our priests in our diocese,” said Aurea Sadi, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth.
No one knows exactly how many parishioners got the innocuous-looking notes from nearly half-a-dozen local priests.
“Including the archbishop,” said Sadi.
The scam starting falling apart when recipients followed up with priests, who had no idea what “favours” they were talking about.
The archdiocese has taken to warning parishioners in the weekly-newsletter.
Lilly Chalupowski is a Halifax-based cyber-security expert who says this type of thing is common.
“We see phishing pretty much every single day,” said Chalupowski.
Cyber-security experts say the sky’s the limit when it comes to phishing for money, because even if only a handful of victims fall for it, the payoffs can be huge.
“Some are more believable than not. They tend to call that spear-phishing, which is a lot more targeted,” Chalupowski said. “Most phishing campaigns are quite generic (so)always check.”
Cpl. Jennifer Clarke is with the Nova Scotia RCMP and says “there is no limit to the creativity we've seen with scammers trying to get money from unsuspecting victims.”
“Always check,” she cautions. “There's nothing wrong with taking a moment and saying, ‘listen, can I have your phone number? And I will check and call you back.’”
The archdiocese says, to its knowledge, nobody lost money in the phishing scheme, but it is urging vigilance among parishioners, asking them to delete any unexpected - or unsolicited - emails from the church.
It’s an unusual request, for unusual times.
“I think this is the first time we've experienced any sort of phishing using names of priests in our diocese,” Sadi said.
With scammers, it appears nothing is sacred anymore – if it ever was.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisko.