The email seems to come from the pastor and will ask the recipient to purchase gift cards for a worthy purpose. In Atlantic Highlands, the scammer then told the victim to send him the gift card numbers, as the pastor was away from the parish for a while.
Over the weekend, a member of Holy Cross staff received an email purporting to be from me saying that I wanted to reward some children who have been especially good at mass and asking if she could purchase some gift cards. Luckily, she contacted me rather than the "reply to" email and we avoided a problem. The scammer used the staff members correct first name, even though this was not obvious from the parish email address.
The scam has nothing to do with any of the legitimate sources of online donation the parish uses. If there is any question about an email received from Holy Cross or one of the staff members, please call us to verify its authenticity, or call the local police if you have been victimized.
Several parishes around the diocese have been targeted, as have parishes in Philadelphia. Here is a link to the Atlantic Highlands article from the Monmouth Journal.
I am sure the children who attend mass will be rewarded, but not with Amazon Gift Cards!
Jesus warned us the children of darkness are crafty and persistent. Help us shine some light on this scam!