Phishers of People: Email Fraud and the Church

Oct 25, 2022

By Bishop Michael Rinehart

Gulf Coast Snyod

Hi there,

I’m travelling and have lost my wallet. Can you send me $500 at the following address?

Bishop Micheal Rinehart

You may have received something like the above email. It’s obviously (I hope) a fraud. Our churches have seen a significant spike in these kinds of emails. Attacks like these are more and more common. There are some ways for individuals to identify them and for churches to minimize them.

The best way to spot phishing emails is to look for anything that doesn’t look right. In the above example, the logo is stretched and dated. (We haven’t used the circular lettering for years.) Synod is spelled wrong as is my first name. People prey on church folks because y’all are so generous. The best bet when receiving something like this, that doesn’t look right, is to pick up the phone and double check. Many of you have done this. Don’t click links in such emails.

Last year the Synod Council got a fake email that appeared to be from me, requesting the purchase of gift cards for charity donations. The message came from a made-up email like [email protected] It was pretty convincing. People sometimes are taken in, they give, and no one is the wiser. If you receive an email like this, PLEASE DELETE THE MESSAGE IMMEDIATELY.

Unfortunately, we are all vulnerable. Since the sender is using their own email address and public information, there is little you can do to stop it. What you can do in this instance is, when someone informs you they received it, put out a note to your people to make everyone aware of the fraudulent email. Some email servers have a link to report fraudulent emails.

While the synod often invites donations to respond to disasters or support companion churches, those fund usually come directly to the synod via check or online giving. I and the synod staff will never contact individuals privately by email to request funds or gift cards to us directly. Please inform us of any attempt and/or disregard any request of this nature. Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

One final note. We have removed synod council contact information from our website, after a phishing email went out to Synod Council. Groups are scouring for emails on our websites. You might want to guard that information more carefully by having a members only section of your website, or asking people to contact the office at your church for contact information.

We live in crazy times, but scams have always been around. Stay on your guard, but know that people understand that some things are out of your control. As you manage this carefully, your people’s confidence will go up, not down, and generosity with it.

Here are more helpful tips from our website team at Worship Times.