Texting scam targets area churches

Published: Sep. 1, 2019 at 8:22 PM CDT
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Some phone scams can be convincing, especially when the person contacting you pretends to be someone you know.

A texting scheme going around is taking advantage of people’s good faith.

“Well, you don’t like having your name used to deceive the people that you serve as a pastor,” said Morrison Zion Lutheran Church Pastor Randy Ott.

A member of the church in Morrison contacted Ott after they got a strange text from someone claiming to be him.

“He knew this didn’t sound right,” said Ott. “It’s not how I text, and he looked at the number and the number wasn’t right.”

Someone used contact information from the church’s newsletter to text several members posing as the pastor. They asked for gift card information to be sent, claiming the money would be used for someone hospitalized and in need.

“Some of the people recognized it was a scam and some didn’t,” said Ott. “One of them said to me, ‘Pastor, if there’s people that I can help I want to help people’ so it’s, you know, they love others because God loved them first and they want to do it, and then they get taken advantage of and it’s frustrating.”

“The reaction many times is surprised, worried,” said Lt. Jason Jost with the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department.

Jost says scams like these aren’t new.

“We’ve taken approximately 50 calls already this year in regards to different types of scams, so that number is probably low,” said Jost. “I’m sure there are people out there that don’t bother calling law enforcement.”

Jost says the key is for people to be vigilant, learn about the different types of scams, and to investigate a strange call, text, or email on their own before responding to demands.

“They’re playing off of those emotions and they really expect the urgency to take part in the scam so they’re trying to tell people they need this quickly, they need to act now, and unfortunately people fall prey to that,” said Jost.

Pastor Ott spread the word to his and other congregations, calling for more caution going forward while still keeping the faith.

“Be careful, make certain of what’s going on, but don’t stop loving,” said Ott. “Just be a little more careful in how you’re going to love other people maybe.”

Jost says other scams to watch out for include: threats coming from the IRS, Social Security Administration or law enforcement agency claiming you violated the law and demand information or money, mail claiming you’ve won a lottery in another country, or that you are the recipient of a large settlement from someone’s will.

If you believe you’ve been victim to a scam, contact your local law enforcement.

For fraud prevention links you can visit the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department website.