OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — One Johnson County, Kansas church is advising its members to be alert.
An email sent to congregation members at Holy Cross Lutheran Church asked for donations, but church leaders say the email is a fake, and didn’t come from them.
A series of red flags made it obvious the email was part of a scam.
The church started getting phone calls from members Monday evening, asking about an email that appeared to come from Pastor Michael Peck. The email asked for donated gift cards. However the email didn’t come from the church.
“They said we want to let you know this is happening. This is the email we received,” Peck said on Monday.
The church shared screenshots of the phony email, where a scammer said he was collecting gift cards for people with cancer.
Overland Park Police detectives tell FOX4 scams involving churches happen pretty often, and this church of 1,200 members has been a target in the past.
“We periodically send out reminder email to the congregation, saying be on the lookout for this. We know that these emails are happening,” Peck added. “Just know that we would never make a request for gift cards.”
Cybersecurity experts advise everyone to read strange emails carefully. Make sure email addresses correspond with the sender, and language used in the email is what you’d expect the sender to use. Also, any strange links are potential trouble.
“I don’t get mad. it’s frustrating. I really don’t want them taking advantage if somebody who may not know that it’s a fake email,” Kathleen Alexander, a church member and employee, said.
“Jesus said to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. I think this is a time to be wise and discerning. There’s a lot of funny business online that people are falling prey to,” Peck added.
Peck said he isn’t sure how the scammers got in contact with so many church members, but they’re investigating.
Church leaders advise — if you’re ever unsure about a church-based email you receive, call your congregation’s leaders before giving your money.