Scammers Target Local Catholic Church Parishioners

HAVERTOWN, Pa. (WPVI) -- Father Kevin Gallagher from St. Denis Roman Catholic Church in Havertown says it was just a few days ago when he received a call from a parishioner.

That parishioner simply wanted to confirm that Father Gallagher was, in fact, the author of emails he had been receiving asking for donations for a local charity.

Father Gallagher says it pained him to say... he sent no such emails.

He says, "Unfortunately this individual responded three different times and it was in excess of $2,000."

Since then, Archdiocesan officials have learned that several church-goers have been targeted here at St. Denis and a number of other churches across the Delaware Valley.

Each time, the scammer sends an email, sometimes even a text message, identifying himself as a local priest, and then asking the parishioner to buy random gift cards to help a charitable cause.

The victim is then instructed to either text or email the gift card numbers.

Police officials in Haverford Township say they have seen an uptick in these types of scams.

In fact, Deputy Chief Joseph Hagan says, "We had a victim just recently actually sent in $20,000 worth of gift cards to a caller that came in and said they were with the IRS."

Meanwhile, Father Gallagher is encouraging anyone with information about the person, or people, behind this scam to contact the authorities.

"It's very frightening, and even sickening, that someone would use the personality of a priest to go after the innocence of other people for money," he said.

Investigators add that any time someone you don't know asks you to buy gift cards and then give them the numbers it is much more than likely a scam.

They also say that even if you have a suspicion that you might be the target of scammers, call the police right away.
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