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Scam targeting churches

Bossier Sheriff’s Office detectives with the Bossier Financial Crimes Task Force warn residents about a scam that is targeting local churches in order to milk the church out of money.

This latest scam involving churches is unfortunately part of an increasing number of companies who are falling victim to wire transfer scams, costing victims more than $1 billion in just the last 18 months, according the U.S. Secret Service. Scams are being perpetrated through fake emails from senior executives of the company or phony vendor emails.

Here’s how this latest scam works:

Several local churches have reported to the Bossier Financial Crimes Task Force that they have received emails from persons they believe who is the church pastor since they appear to come from the pastor.  The emails ask the churches to send a wire transfer with instructions detailing to whom and where to send the transfer.  Upon further inspection, though, churches have noticed that the email address was not actually from the pastor of the church, since it used a different domain, such as a gmail.com email address.  The scammer is hoping the recipient of the email might not notice the slight difference in the domain and think it’s from a trusted sender or someone they know.

Detectives warn that this scam may use malware installed in the system via an employee clicking on a compromised website link that is emailed to them (phishing).  Detectives encourage folks to use caution when opening and responding to emails. The sender’s name may be a person you know, but pay close attention to the actual email address from where it was sent.

These types of wire transfers scams against churches are common for scam artists.  If you have received any emails like this, detectives advise to clean your computer with a virus and malware scan and immediately change your password.

Here are some other tips if you suspect your church or company has been scammed:

  • Contact your local FBI or U.S. Secret Service office immediately to report a “business email compromise” scheme.
  • Contact both your financial institution and the receiving financial institution to request that they halt or unwind the transfer if a wire transfer was actually processed.
  • Seek advice from counsel about any legal obligations or protections you may have related to this situation, such as potential insurance coverage for any loss.
  • Change your controls to minimize the risk of something similar happening again, and don’t think you need to sweep it under the rug.
  • Make sure that employees know about the scam, how it was perpetrated, and that they can be a gateway for the scammer is important in motivating employees to remain vigilant.
  • As always, you can report scams or any other types of crimes to the Bossier Sheriff’s Office at (318) 965-2203.
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