PSA: Church Scam Calls – Don’t Fall For Them

| Cristy Bird | ,

If you are a church you will get phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, and regular mail from people trying to scam your church. It’s a sad state of society that people would try to rip off churches, but it is not surprising as churches are generous institutions who seek to help the needy, but often are not particularly knowledgeable about scam tactics. The reality is that if these scams were not working, they wouldn’t be done. Church fraud and scam artists get more and more money from churches each year. Below we’ve listed 4 of the most common church scams, how you can know they are fake, and what you can do about them.

  1. “Get listed on Google” Phone Call – You are probably familiar with these common calls. But people often call the church saying things like “your church can’t be found on Google” pay us $$$ and we’ll help your church show up in search engines. 
    1. Why is this a scam? Google crawls the internet, all 1,295,973,827 websites, on a regular basis. If your website is active on the internet, i.e. you can type in your URL and pull it up, then most likely it can be searched by Google. One important note is that it is possible to stop google from crawling your website and this is often done intentionally on some sites.
    2. What can you do about it? First, know that Google will never call you. Google doesn’t contact people by phone. Second, go to Google and search for your church, if your church website comes up in the search results then you are good to go. If your website isn’t coming up. Contact us and we can get things going for you.
    3. Bonus: Check out our article on how to use Google My Business to grow your church’s reach.

  1. “Domain Renewal” Mailer – These are regular mail items that show up in your church mailbox to get you to pay $$ to renew your domain name from a company other than the one you registered it originally, usually for a steep price increase. Domain name registration and renewal is a real thing, but not through these guys.
    1. Why is this a scam? Every domain (or URL) on the internet has been registered and paid for by someone. It is crucial that you maintain access to the original account that registered the domain and keep it paid. A usual domain registration should be around $15 per year not what these guys charge. BTW, we provide free domain management services for our clients, to keep things like this from happening.
    2. What can you do about it? Keep the name of the company and the login information for your domain in a secure place. As well keep the contact email accurate for this account. They will email you to let you know if it is about to expire. Trash anything that comes in the mail asking you to renew.
    3. Bonus: Check out our PSA video on this.

  1. “Greetings in the name of _________” Emails – These emails may come into your main church email or from a contact form on your church website. While they seem innocent at first they are designed to fish for more information and ultimately scam your church out of money.
    1. Why is this a scam? Churches are the most generous institutions on the planet. This is a widely known fact by scammers as well. These emails are not even real people, but are rather done by bots to try to get a response so they can set up a request for money or gift cards. The people behind these emails are not pastors or ministry leaders, but are scammers in other countries trying to take advantage of your church’s generosity. 
    2. What can you do about it? The best response is to ignore them and not respond. If you respond, or even open the email, your email address will begin to receive even more spam as it will have been marked as active by the spam bot. A good spam filter, ex. Google Captcha, on a form, can keep most of these automated emails from getting through. Spam is an ongoing battle as the bots get smarter and smarter though.
    3. Bonus: Let us know if you need help protecting your forms from spam. We can help!

  1. “Can you help?” Facebook Messages – These are the latest in the ever evolving ways scammers are trying to steal money. In this scam, scammers impersonate pastors and religious leaders by creating fake facebook accounts that look similar to theirs and then proceed to solicit donations and gift cards from people in the church.
    1. Why is this a scam? These are some of the most despicable scams going on today. You will get a Facebook message from a person you trust, usually a pastor, asking for help. Then the “pastor” asks you to buy some gift cards for some reason. It would be easy to fall for this because you might think they are needed for a ministry purpose. But the person on the other end of the message just wants the codes off the back and then you never hear from them again. 
    2. What can you do about it? It is important to alert your pastor ASAP if you feel like this is happening. Text or call your pastor to personally verify that this message is legitimate. If not, report the incident to Facebook. This will lock that person’s account until Facebook investigates and will keep others in the church from getting these messages. 
    3. Bonus: Check out this recent article from AARP.

As these types of things become more and more common in our digital world, protecting your church from scams starts with educating yourself and other church staff about potential risks. Your inner spam filter is the best tool to help you not get scammed. If something doesn’t “feel” right, it probably isn’t. So learning about new tactics and always seeking to verify the identity of someone who is asking for money are great first steps. If you believe you might have fallen victim to a church scam, contact us and we’ll be glad to let you know if it’s something we’ve seen before.

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