Diocese warns of text scam seen across Western New York

Western New York

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is warning of a phone scam that has already affected multiple parishes.

People have been receiving text messages from a scammer pretending to be an area pastor. So far, parishes in Boston, North Collins, Buffalo, Corfu, Spring Brook, Eden, Grand Island, Jamestown and Lackawanna have been affected.

According to the Diocese, the context of the texts varies, but they go something like this:

“I need a favor from you, please text me back…I need you to get an eBay gift card for a friend going through cancer in the hospital, but I can’t do it now…can you get it from a store around you now?  I’ll pay you back as soon as I can.”

Other variations ask people to purchase Tops gift cards through eBay, or some other kind of gift card is requested.

The Diocese’s schools and parishes were notified of the scam last week.

St. John the Baptist posted a warning in their weekly church bulletin which read:

“SCAM WARNING This has already occurred in our parish and with other churches in our diocese! A caller – assuming the identity of your pastor – will text you, asking you for a favor: to purchase gift cards via eBay on his behalf. The phony text asks you to purchase the gift card for the pastor’s friend, who has cancer. Do not respond to these texts. They seem very convincing, but they are scams!”

Pastors and school principals were asked to share the scam information with their staff.

The Federal Trade Commission issued this alert in July, warning consumers of gift card scams linked to churches and other houses of worship. If you have been a target of a gift card scam, the FTC asks you to report it.

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