Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe is reminding everyone to be vigilant on social media after he was impersonated on facebook by unscrupulous persons aiming to scam people.
“It looks as if my Bishop Steve Lowe facebook page was hacked earlier today . . . If you receivedany message from me on Messenger today please ignore it,” he said in a July 19 facebook post.
Netsafe’s Contact Centre said it has received multiple reports from clergy of various denominations and their parishioners about similar scams where an impersonation account is used to request money or gift cards.
“These types of scams appear to mirror whaling/targeted phishing scams that impersonate a client or manager of a business who has the authority to ask for funds or change payment information,” said Netsafe’s online safety consultant in an email to NZ Catholic.
“In this case, the scammers are aware that parishioners are more likely to respond to a request for assistance that appears to come from a trusted clergy member.”
Netsafe said gift cards are often requested by these types of scammers, as they have worldwide value, and are difficult to trace.
“If parishioners receive such a request for money, we recommend that they confirm this with either a phone call or in-person visit with the bishop/priest, or the appropriate parish/diocese administrator,” Netsafe suggested.
It added that people can report these types of scams using facebook’s in-app reporting tools.
People can also report impersonation pages to facebook using the following form: https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/169486816475808 .
The Catholic Diocese of Hamilton facebook page stressed that they will not send a message to anyone personally through facebook messenger to ask for money.
Several commenters on facebook suggested that Bishop Lowe make use of a “blue tick” facility on the social media media site that would help with verification.