People linked to parish churches are being urged not to fall for tricksters who are posing as members of the clergy in order to try and extract money.

On at least two separate occasions, people whose names and email addresses appear on parish websites have received fake emails – purporting to be from the parish priest.

‘Birthday present’

In one case the con-artist pretended to be the priest, said they were busy, and asked a Reader to do them a favour and buy Amazon gift cards worth £200 for their niece’s birthday, and to have the vouchers sent to a third email address.

In the other case, various people whose contact details appeared on a different parish’s website received an email that appeared to come from their priest asking them to click a link and to send £30 to the priest’s niece, this time because she was ‘in trouble’.

In one case, the would-be thief had set up an email address that looked on the face of it as though it had come from the priest in that parish. However, if the recipient clicked on and looked at the email address itself, it was not from their priest at all.

‘Be vigilant’

The Archdeacon of Bodmin, the Ven Audrey Elkington, has warned people to be vigilant.

Audrey said: “Somebody is using the fact that people are connected by their common membership of a church to try and extract money by false pretences.

“By targeting members of the same church, they know the individuals are likely to know and to want to help one another.

‘Phone to check’

“I would urge people be be extremely cautious when they are asked for money, or favours involving money, by email. Better to make a phone call to the individual just to check that a request is indeed genuine. And make use of your gut feeling – if something seems odd or unusual, then it is quite possible that something fishy is going on.

“Parishes also might like to consider using contact forms on their websites instead of displaying individuals’ email addresses.”