Beware of Text Message, Email and Social Media Scams

It has come to the attention of the Diocese of St. Petersburg that parishioners have been receiving text messages and emails asking for money and gift cards from people pretending to be our priests. Our priests and staff do not contact individuals via text message or social media to ask for money or personal information.

Do not reply to such text or social media messages and report them to your parish and the Diocese.

When internet fraudsters mimic a legitimate individual, organization or business to trick consumers into giving out personal information or money, it is called phishing. When fraudsters do this via text messaging, it is called smishing.

To protect yourself from smishing, phishing, email scams and hoaxes, follow these tips from the Federal Trade Commission.

  • Be aware. Legitimate organizations never ask for personal or financial information (such as usernames, passwords, PINs, credit or debit card numbers) via text message, social media, or emails.
  • Do not be rushed. Smishing scams try to create a false sense of urgency by implying that an immediate response is required or that there is limited time to respond.
  • Verify the legitimacy of a text message, social media message, or email that you receive from any organization, including a church. Call the office and speak to a representative who can assist with verifying the legitimacy of the communication. Do not  call any phone numbers that may have been included in the suspicious message. Contact the organization by the information listed in your records.
  • Ignore suspicious text messages, social media messages, and emails from someone who claims to need your personal information or financial assistance.
Learn ways to avoid smishing, phishing and other scams at ftc.gov/spam and via the articles below.
Visit www.faithandsafety.org to learn about protecting your family online.