It's still doing the rounds: local church office holders such as churchwardens, treasurers etc have received fraudulent messages by email or text impersonating members of the clergy, typically in their own parish but sometimes more widely, asking the recipient to spend money typically on vouchers and gift cards.
There have been some close calls with one church office holder actually having spent quite a lot of their own money, but fortunately discovered before it was too late.
The sender has taken some trouble both with identifying their chosen pseudo-sender and the intended victim (we guess someone is trawling parish church websites). In many cases the sender has used an un-traceable gmail address, or texted from an equally un-traceable pay-as-you-go (or 'burner') mobile phone.
It seems this is a national trend at present with similar reports from other Church of England Dioceses, and we have reported one specimen case to North Yorkshire Police who have passed it over to Action Fraud, a national police scheme.
In several cases the first message reads "Do you have a moment I have a request I need you to handle discreetly. I am currently busy in a prayer session, no calls so just reply my email."
A reply then draws the recipient into a dialogue in which they are encouraged to buy vouchers, and ultimately send images of their serial and security numbers to the fraudster.
If you think you have received one of these messages please report it to the police via their non-emergency line 101.
Martin Sheppard at Diocese of York Communications (firstname.lastname@example.org), is monitoring the scams and can provide informal advice if you're unsure whether a message is valid or not.
- Incumbents may like to consider advising their church officers and PCC members that "I will never ask you by email to spend your own money for the church."
This has the advantage of needing no technical knowledge or understanding to help people identify an incoming email as fraudulent.