The Diocese of York has been experiencing a wave of scam emails that have been targeting local church office staff and volunteers, often claiming to come from the church vicar, or even the Archbishop of York.
Typically, the fraudsters ask for help with a vague request. The intention is to draw the recipient into conversation and eventually ask them to buy vouchers and send the code numbers, resulting in the loss of their money.
They attempt to convince the recipient that the vouchers or gift cards are for members of the church or are church-related gifts.
While no one in the York Diocese has permanently lost money due to these scams, one person did begin the process of sending money before calling her bank to stop the transfer at the eleventh hour.
The tactics are becoming more and more commonplace as they spread across the UK.
Over the last four years, these instances have come in waves – and now they’re back once again.
Shepard tells Premier Christian Radio, "Whenever it rears its head, we re-issue the advice that we put out yesterday. And the solution that we advocate is to say to church leaders, especially local church leaders, actually to make it quite clear to their church members, 'I will never ask you to spend your own money by email.'"
He advises people to ask themselves how plausible an email request is before responding and recommends contacting the sender via phone or other means to confirm its authenticity.
The diocese is encouraging people to be cautious and vigilant in identifying scam emails.
While there are no hard and fast rules for identifying these scams, increasing awareness and vigilance can help prevent further losses.