We have heard from a number of Alabama-West Florida Conference clergy whose congregations have been the target of an e-mail scam. Church members have received fraudulent emails that appear to be from the pastor and ask for help (usually financial help). A common theme is a need for a gift card or urgent help for a loved one. Our Bishop and conference staff have also encountered this issue.
If you receive an email that strikes you as unusual, confirm that it's legitimate before you reply. Refrain from forwarding the email to others. Instead, make a quick phone call to the church or write a new email to your pastor or a staff person. If the email is fraudulent, report it as phishing to your email provider and delete the email. Pay careful attention to the sender's address (not just name) as that will help you to identify if the email is legitimate. All AWF staff emails use @awfumc.org.
The issue isn't unique to AWF. A recent article in The Christian Post
shared that churches nationwide are the target of these scams. The Federal Trade Commission shares tips on how to recognize and avoid phishing scams at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-recognize-and-avoid-phishing-scams
The issue is also not unique to email but extends to text and phone calls. As with email, remember that clergy and churches do not ask for personal or financial information by text. Don't be rushed, instead, be cautious and confirm the legitimacy of a communication before you respond.