(CBS4) – Worshippers are the latest target for scammers trying to make a quick dollar. On Wednesday the Jefferson County Sheriff sent out a warning to a coalition of churches who participate in their safety in faith workshops notifying leaders about a scam targeting local congregations.
John Larson has been a pastor at Ascension Lutheran Church in Littleton for 13 years. In that time, he has developed a sense of community in his sanctuary.
“The congregation, we know each other, and I’ve been here a while so they know me,” Larson said. “I think there’s a level of trust that is there and some people will prey on that and will try and cheat and steal from others.”
Those feelings of trust are likely one reason his parishioners were targeted by the scammers.
“They got a request from me to say that they needed to send money or give a gift card,” he said.
That request was not really from Larson, but it sure looked like it.
Jenny Fulton, a spokesperson with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office, said victims are getting emails, texts and phone calls.
“The pastor’s phone number may be spoofed or an email address that is being used by scammers is very similar to the pastor’s actual email address,” she said.
After warning the network of faith communities in the Denver metro area about the scam in Jeffco, Fulton says at least eight churches have reported similar incidents.
“They reach out in such a way that the parishioners are trusting of this authority figure asking for donations and then they are directed to purchase gift cards and unfortunately some people do,” Fulton said.
In one month, Fulton says they have worked with three victims who lost around $1,000 together.
Larson says knowing the kind of people who fill the pews in his church on Sunday it’s no surprise, but that someone would target that generosity for personal gain is disappointing.
“Church people have a generous heart they care about people in need,” he said. “It … angers me that they would use my name or the name of other pastors or churches to really take advantage, to do their dirty work.”