Across the Church of England, including our Diocese, there has been an increase recently in a particular type of 'phishing' (or scam) emails.
These emails often 'piggyback' on existing email addresses, so you may think they are genuine as a result.
The scammers usually pose as people you will be familar with, such as Bishops, Archdeacons, other clergy, parish officers or Diocesan staff.
Typically, the emails ask the recipient to reply, not to call and then to purchase online gift cards (eg from Amazon) often as a 'thankyou' for a member of the church community.
York Diocese has been particularly affected recently, as featured this week in the regional news.
The sender's email address is often reported as being firstname.lastname@example.org but this is not always the case. Some of the scam emails give the impression of being from an email address you may trust, but on closer examination there will be some subtle differences to the email address that would indicate it's not genuine. (Try 'hovering' your cursor/pointer over the address as this may reveal the real sender.)
Other 'tell-tale' signs include spelling mistakes and a tone pressuring for urgent action or negative consequences.
If you have a bogus email, police are advising recipients to call 101. You can also report suspicious emails you receive directly to HM Revenue and Customs via a dedicated email for investigating scams: email@example.com or Report@phishing.gov.uk
Please note, we have taken steps at the Diocesan offices to block any attempt by scammers to send emails from inboxes of staff using the firstname.lastname@example.org address and will do the same for any other email address we learn of.
Ronnie Semley, August 2020