Orange County Consumer Affairs Commissioner Charles Mitchell is warning residents of a gift card scam in which scammers are pretending to be a pastor, rabbi, priest, imam or bishop.
“Members of the clergy will notify the congregation as a whole before they send out requests for contributions,” Mitchell said. “If you receive a request that seems a bit off, contact your place of worship and make sure it is really from them. The clergy members usually send a letter explaining the need for the contribution and how the money will be used. They rarely ask for a gift card donation. Once you hear that request, hang up the phone, delete the text or the e-mail.”
According to Mitchell, scammers are asking worshippers for gift card contributions for a “worthy cause.”
Appeals are often made by e-mail, but residents are also receiving texts and phone calls.
The bogus e-mails often include the name of the local pastor and a legitimate looking e-mail address.
But a closer look could raise some red flags. In some instances, the email address isn’t the one used by the church, and/or the service provider is different.
The message may begin with a simple “Hi,” but doesn’t include a recipient name. There may also be spelling errors, including the pastor’s name.
The imposter asks you to buy a popular gift card, i.e. iTunes, Google Play or Amazon, and then asks for the gift card number and PIN on the back of the card.
Those numbers let the scammer immediately get the money you loaded onto the card and the scammer and your money are gone, usually without a trace.
If you or someone you know paid a scammer with a gift card, report it as soon as possible to your local police department.
Call the card company and tell them the gift card was used in a scam.
Contact and tell the Federal Trade Commission about it at ftc.gov/complaint or 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Finally, if you receive one of these bogus requests, contact the local police and the Orange County Department of Consumer Affairs at 360-6700.