PUTNAM COUNTY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office is warning people about a phone scam meant to rip off churchgoers.

People are pretending to be a pastor or priest of the victim’s church – or the leader of any other place of worship – according to the sheriff’s office.

The scammers allegedly send text messages attempting to collect gift cards they claim are for patients battling COVID-19. They tell the victim to buy the cards and send screenshots of the numbers on the back.

Police said the scammer knew their victim’s first name, in some cases, and specifically asked for gift cards in $100 denominations, which could make it more difficult for trained cashiers and clerks to spot signs of fraud.

Anyone who receives a text message like this is asked to report the incident to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. Any Putnam County resident who lost money to this scam is asked to report it to the sheriff’s office or their local police department.

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