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Local scam targets parishioners via text

Parishioners across Western New York have been receiving messages from someone posing as their pastor, asking for gift cards.

BOSTON, N.Y. — The hills of Boston aren't so quiet this fall as parishioners of St. John the Baptist have their phones buzzing with an odd text.

An October bulletin from the church warns that members of their parish have been receiving texts from someone posing as their pastor, asking for gift cards via eBay to help a friend with cancer. 

Boston residents aren't alone, the diocese confirmed that these scams are affecting parishes in North Collins, Buffalo, Corfu, Lackawanna, Springbrook, Eden, Grand Island and Jamestown.

Kathy Spangler, director of communications for the diocese, said in the email that the content of the message varies from:

“…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.”  

Or, the message will ask for the recipient to purchase Tops gift cards via eBay, or for other gift cards.

The warning in the bulletin urges churchgoers not to respond to these messages. Spangler added that diocesan schools and parishes were notified last week about the scam, and asked to share the information with their staffs.  

Similar scams have taken place across the United States in recent months. The Attorney General of Texas issued a consumer report about the scams in March, and The Archdiocese of Miami also shared information about a similar scam in late August.

For more information on protecting yourself from text scams and how to report them to your carrier, you can visit the New York State Attorney General's web pages on mobile spam and phishing

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