Parishes urged to be on the lookout for email scams

BRAINTREE -- Last June, many people on the contact list of St. Stephen Parish in Framingham received emails claiming to come from the parish, asking the recipient to purchase a Google Play gift card as a present for someone and promising to pay them back.

One of the recipients, Osvaldo Calderon, who is in charge of media at the parish, knew that something was not right about this. He immediately notified the pastor and then contacted the parish office, confirming that it was not from any of the staff. They posted a warning about the fraudulent emails on the parish Facebook page, and at Calderon's suggestion, the parish created a new email with their own domain name.

Speaking to The Pilot on Nov. 5, Calderon said he thinks they did "pretty well" in handling the situation.

"I think if we didn't have fast turnaround communication between the parishioners and the parish, then people could have been affected by this," he said.

At a time when Catholic organizations are using digital technology more than ever, it is important that parish leaders, volunteers, and members know how to recognize phishing scams. Hackers use these fraudulent emails, purporting to be from a reputable person or company, to trick recipients into sending them money, revealing personal information, or granting access to their computer files, website accounts, or bank accounts.