During the COVID-19 crisis, email scams have been multiplying, and the Archdiocese of Washington is again warning priests and parishioners to be wary of recent bogus emails from senders falsely claiming to be Archbishop Gregory or parish priests that sometimes seek donations.

The archdiocese warned local priests and parishioners about the scams in mid-April, and is now warning the local Catholic community about a new wave of scam emails claiming to be from Archbishop Gregory. 

In an April 16 message to priests, Father Daniel Carson, the archdiocese’s Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, warned them about these suspicious emails and encouraged them to alert their parishioners about such recurring scams.

“We have received calls and emails today about fraudulent emails being received by people from a spam account using Archbishop Gregory’s or other priests’ names. Please note that the archbishop will not communicate a need for assistance in this way,” Father Carson wrote, advising people to “please be diligent in not responding to suspicious emails.”

Father Carson said the Archdiocese of Washington is unable to stop fraudulent emails that are outside of the archdiocese’s domain, and he encouraged the priests to pay special attention to suspicious emails.

“We are seeing an increase in spam and scams,” he noted.

The priest pointed out that the U.S. Attorney General has warned people about the following scams:

  • Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud; 
  • Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other health organizations;
  • Malicious websites and apps that appear to share coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received; 
  • Emails seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations; 
  • Emails from fake medical providers seeking to obtain patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures. 

In an interview with the Catholic Standard, Father Carson said these kinds of email scams, where people impersonate the pastor or a Church leader occur periodically, and typically involve the scammer sending an email posing as the priest and saying they need help and asking that person to respond back. If the person responds to the bogus email, that sender might ask them to do something like purchase gift cards and send them the number. The language in such bogus email appeals constantly changes, but the sender often uses a phony gmail or yahoo account with the priest’s name incorporated in it. 

Most people recognize that the email address is different from their pastor’s. Other red flags alerting people that such emails are bogus include spelling and grammatical errors, and odd wording that seems suspect.

Father Carson said such email scams are reprehensible. “It really takes advantage of the good people of faith,” he said.

The British Broadcasting Corporation reported April 17 that Google has been blocking 18 million coronavirus scams every day. 

Experts warn people to be wary of unsolicited email appeals for financial donations, to treat email attachments with caution, and to be careful about clicking on links in email messages. They say if you’ve clicked on a wrong link or realize that you have provided a password, user name or other personal information in response to a scam, to change your password immediately and alert your business's or organization's IT department of the breach.