Several congregations have reported that their members are receiving scam emails that are requesting gift card donations for a charitable cause. At least one person has lost money to these scams. Religious groups and congregations are becoming easy targets for these types of scams. The UUA recommends that congregations inform their members about this scam and educate their members on the official channels your congregation uses to accept donations.
The UUA has seen an increase in “phishing” attempts of all kinds. Phishing is a form of “social engineering,” whereby a hacker with bad intentions sends an email (or text or phone call) pretending to be someone the recipient trusts and asks the recipient to take an action which can have adverse effects. Sometimes, they request money. Other times, they invite the recipient to click a link or open an attachment that can trigger malicious code.
A good rule of thumb with emails you’re not expecting is to: (1) reach out to the sender through another channel (call, text, visit website) and (2) not click on a link (or send money, gift cards, etc.) without clarifying from the trusted source.
For more on this particular gift card scam, follow this link.
To get a better sense of what to look for when receiving unsolicited emails, try the Google Phishing Quiz.
Hackers are getting more sophisticated every day. The best defense is to encourage your employees, volunteers and congregation members to pause and look for warning signs before responding to any unsolicited email.