It has come to the attention of the Diocese of St. Petersburg that parishioners have been receiving text messages 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. Also, we have become aware that at least one person was contacted by someone using Facebook Messenger pretending to be Bishop Gregory Parkes. Bishop Parkes does not contact individuals on social media using Facebook Messenger. Please report any suspicious activity to Facebook and do not respond.
Do not reply to such text, email or social media messages and call your parish, school or the Diocese to verify its legitimacy if it appears suspicious.
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. If you lost money to a scam that started with an email, please report it at ftc.gov/complaint. Also, here is a great resource from the Federal Trade Commission: How to Recognize and Report Scam Text Messaging.
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.
- 10 Things You Can Do To Avoid Becoming a Victim of Fraud
- How to Recognize and Avoid Phishing Scams
- Online Security and Safety