We want to make you aware of email and text message scams that are targeting members of religious institutions around the country. There are also recent reports of other Maryland and Howard County churches having been affected by this issue, including Christ Church.
This particular scam involves making a fake email account in Father Manny's name (using a "churchmail901" Gmail address in this case, although there may be other email addresses being used, as well) and then sending a request for gift cards allegedly from him to then give to members of the staff. We ask that you please be vigilant if you come across any email that appears to be from Father Manny, Deacon Denise, or any vestry, outreach leader, or parishioner that asks you to take some kind of unusual action (purchasing gift cards and replying with the serial numbers, clicking a link or downloading an attachment you didn’t request, wiring money to a specified account, or simply replying quickly). Their message might give some explanation of why they need your help immediately. They may include some story about another person in dire circumstances whom they are trying to help, or that they want to award staff with gift cards but need your help while they are "out of town". However, instead of helping a needy person, if you respond you might actually be turning over money and/or your identity information to a scammer.
It's important to be very thorough with verifying these emails before doing anything. The emails seem harmless; they usually have the rector or staff member's name and an email address that looks legitimate, but upon further inspection you'll see that the email address is actually from a provider different than the "@christchurchcolumbia.org" address that we typically, and safely, use. In some instances, the sender’s name may look correct but is missing a single letter. Or, it may otherwise closely resemble the real email address; for example, email@example.com becomes firstname.lastname@example.org, or similar.
If you receive an email that appears related to Christ Episcopal Church but you're unsure of its authenticity, please do not respond directly to it or click any links in the email. Instead, please email us at email@example.com and place "Phishing scam?" in the subject line. Please do not forward the email to us; alternatively, you can type the sender's email address in the message body or take a screenshot of the email (how to do this - Windows / Mac / Android / iPhone) and include that image in the email. We will tell you if the address is in our official CEC database, or if it appears to be a scam.
General email DOs and DON’Ts:
DO double-check your emails carefully.
DON’T ever respond to an email asking you for money.
DO verify in person, by email to a trusted address, or by phone any request involving money or personal information.
DON’T click on any links within the message.
You can learn more about how to protect yourself, as well as how to report suspected phishing emails or text messages, by visiting the Federal Trade Commission's website here. If you got a phishing email, forward it to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you got a phishing text message, forward it to SPAM (7726).