You may have recently received an email scam that involves people sending emails impersonating clergy. This has happened broadly in churches, and has happened once again at ours.
In recent cases, someone set up a fake email address with a pastor’s name (most commonly, Pastor Alan Sherouse) and sent messages to a group of church members with a sense of urgency, hoping to prompt a response by email and then convince the recipients to complete an unusual task (click a link, wire money, buy gift cards, share sensitive information, etc.). This scam is a form of “phishing” known as “whaling.” Whereas “phishing” involves sending a fraudulent email to a large group of people in the hope a few will respond, “whaling” is more targeted and involves forging communications that look like they’re from an individual — often the leader of an organization (ie. the “whale”).
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to stop such “whaling” scams, which is why they are increasingly common. The email accounts that send the messages have not been “hacked.” Instead, they have been created to look at first glance like a legitimate account. Even if you block or report the fraudulent email, the scammer can create another. So, while we can’t stop the senders, we can at least be aware and informed.
First of all, as it relates to First Baptist Greensboro, please know that none of our pastors or staff will ever contact you directly by email to ask you to urgently send money, buy gift cards, or any other such financial request. Further, if ever we need to contact you immediately, we will do so by phone. And for goodness’ sake, when communicating by email we will seek to use better grammar and spelling than most scammers do (“Revrend” Alan Sherouse will not be emailing you!).
More broadly, we can all be reminded to pay attention if communication seems suspicious. Take time to verify the sender email. Don’t act before confirming a strange request with a phone call or face-to-face contact. Refrain from sharing personal information. And never click links from unknown sources. It’s probably not the last time we’ll be “whaled,” so please continue to be cautious and reach out if you have questions or we can be a resource in any way.
(Thanks to the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina for composing information on these scams)