NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There’s a new scam involving local churches and their parishioners in Brooklyn.

According to the Brooklyn diocese, thieves are targeting church goers and getting away with thousands of dollars.

The scammers have reportedly stolen about $3,000, and that’s just from the victims they know about.

It started a couple weeks ago. Church members were getting text messages from someone posing as their priest, asking for donations in the form of gift cards.

Scam text targeting Brooklyn parishioners, posing as a local pastor. (Credit: CBS2)

In some of the cases, the pretend pastor was asking for help on behalf of a patient battling cancer. With a very believable cause as their weapon, scammers really pulled at the heart strings of people who practice compassion and service in Brooklyn.

This week the scheme got even more brazen; using the bishop’s name and targeting actual employees who work for the diocese.

“This is like a really sleazy crime. To invoke the bishop’s name, to rob somebody is beyond… What are they going to think of next? How low can these guys go?” text message recipient John Quaglione said.

“In most cases the scammer posed as the pastor, that’s who most parishioners will have a relationship with is the pastor. So the natural reaction is to react with compassion,” Adriana Rodriguez, the diocese press secretary explained.

Warning letters have gone out to Catholic churches in Brooklyn and Queens as well as churches that are part of the Newark diocese in New Jersey.

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