MALVERNE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Police say someone is impersonating a priest on the phone using text messages to ask for money.
Now there’s concern this could be happening in other towns, reports CBS2’s Alice Gainer.READ MORE: Man Shot To Death In Elmont, Nassau County Police Investigating
“It’s sinful – it’s evil and it really has to stop,” said Father Michael Duffy, pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Malverne.
This is the text message several parishioners received from a number claiming to be him, asking for a Google Play gift card for $500 for a friend with cancer in the hospital.
“The problem is it’s confusing because I do visit people in the hospital often and I do text with my parishioners,” said Duffy.
He says this parishioner knew it wasn’t Duffy and played along to see what the impostor would say next.
“Once you get it, scratch the back of the card and snapshot it, then have the pics sent to me on here so I can forward to my friend,” it read.
“It’s really disturbing that people would do that using the position of the Catholic priest and someone who would be sick like that,” he said.
He tried calling the number and got the same message we did when we called: “The text now subscriber you are trying to reach is not available.”
TextNow allows texts to be sent to cellphones from computers.READ MORE: AP: Federal Judge Deals Blow To Vaccine Mandate For New York City Teachers
On the company’s website it acknowledges that “often, the anonymity provided by internet services can result in abusive or harassing behavior.”
It goes on to urge people to block the number they were called from and alert law enforcement.
The company however did not get back to CBS2.
This isn’t the first time parishioners here have been targeted. It has happened at least once before, but in that instance it was through email.
“At that time someone did fall for it right around Christmas time, thinking I was visiting a sick person in the hospital and they sent a couple hundred dollars in gift cards,” said Duffy.
He says so far none of his parishioners have fallen for this scam and he wants to spread the word and keep it that way.
“It’s not just something that’s happening to the church, it’s happening everywhere in society and it’s really kind of scary,” said parishioner Toni Vitelli.
“We’re a parish of forgiveness, so whoever that person is, please understand you are forgiven and if you need some help approach us,” said parishioner James Sammon.MORE NEWS: De Blasio Says City Prepared For School Staffing Shortages As COVID Vaccine Deadline Approaches
As they say, don’t steal.