Those Rotten Phishers- 2/15
This past Wednesday greeted me with unfortunate news. Some online phisher-person created a g-mail identity using my picture and a close approximation of my usual church email address, and they sent out a solicitation to a handful of Family of Christ members. I received a few check-in phone messages, and a heads-up from some staff and council members. Unless you waved your cursor over the actual email address (which then revealed a g-mail account, rather than the usual email address account that all of us in the church office use), you wouldn’t even have known that it wasn’t me.
- the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from a reputable person in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, passwords, credit/gift card information or to send money.
Though the phishing email had some variations, it basically asked people to provide a gift card because I allegedly needed to help a cancer patient. At the end, it even cited a Bible verse, Philippians 4:19, just as I might do in a communication. (Rats, that means these bad guys read their Bibles!) Oh, those dastardly, clever, criminals! If only they’d apply their computer skill and time to doing something productive. In this economy, there is work to be had! They could actually put in a solid day’s work for an honest living, but instead, they use deceit, greed, and illegal behavior to try and scam people out of some money. What’s worse, they are trying to prey on praying people! They are attempting to use a Christian’s impulse to be generous and charitable in order to bilk people out of information or money.
By Wednesday evening, our church office sent out a Constant Contact warning everyone about this hoax. Some even got back to me to say they had engaged with the phisher thinking that it was me, but then got suspicious when, after agreeing to drop the gift cards over to the church for me, the phisher responded by saying, ‘no no no, just send me a picture of the back of the gift card!’ That, thankfully, raised enough suspicions to get people to check in with me to get to the truth of the matter.
Jesus says this to his disciples in Matthew 10:16: “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Seems like all the way back to Bible times, there were people eager to try and take advantage of those who aim to do good in this world. But this should never stop us from wanting to make a difference, help others in need, and be generous in our discipleship. Still, we must tread carefully. Giving to others can make us vulnerable, which, of course, is an important and good thing. But we also must be cautious and careful. And we want to try to make sure the good we desire to offer actually gets to those who need it.
Let’s have an agreement together that I won’t solicit cash or gift cards or personal information from you via emails. So if you get such a request, be suspicious! Check it out! Oh, I’m sure I’ll keep preaching stewardship, and talking about giving, and even trying to encourage extra giving for Lutheran Disaster Relief, or Minnesota Food Share, or Our Saviour’s Shelter. But these would be broad requests, and not individual emails. And I certainly won’t need you to immediately send me cash, personally, or a picture of the back of a gift card!
Let’s all be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. I wish we didn’t have to deal with such a crummy scam and vexing hoax. Then again, that obviously tells us there are those who have not yet truly heard the call to discipleship from the Lord of love, peace, and grace.
Let’s see each other in church. ~ Pastor Josh