SCAM ALERT: Scammers target local church members via email

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Scammers are targeting church members in our area via email.

“Whoever is doing this is attempting to play on somebody's sympathies, and there are people who fall for it,” said Rev. John Delaney of St. Jude Catholic Church in South Bend.

Delaney says scammers are posing as him and as other church staff and then trying to deceive parishioners into sending money.

“We're concerned that if it's happening to us, it could be happening to other churches, other denominations, other parishes,” he added.

One of those emails was sent to NewsCenter 16’s Tricia Sloma, and it appeared to be from Delaney. However, after looking closely at the email address, it’s evident the address is similar to Delaney’s but is incorrect.

Delaney says anyone can verify email addresses on their church bulletin.

“Look at it very closely,” he advised. “Call the office and say, ‘Did Father or did Monsignor recently send out an email asking for? Is this a legitimate thing?’”

Delaney says St. Jude and other churches would not likely ask for monetary contributions over email but would instead inform the congregation from the pulpit or bulletin or a personalized letter.

“It's very upsetting when people try to scam even the church or other charitable institutions or target older people or anyone who's going to be susceptible to playing on their sympathies,” Delaney said. “Very sad.”

The church email server has not been compromised; rather, scammers are creating accounts with email addresses similar to those of church staff.

Though it's uncertain how many churches are being targeted, staff at the Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend say they themselves have seen similar emails.