As people are going through these trying times, SCAMMERS are taking advantage – posing as our leadership, staff, and members asking for help. KNOW THAT MDUUC (AND OUR LEADERSHIP/MEMBERS) WILL NEVER ASK FOR YOU TO BUY GIFT CARDS OR SEND MONEY IN AN EMAIL. We only encourage donations sent directly to the church office or contributed via our mduuc.org/give page
We encourage you to double-check with us if you are unsure of a request.
Please read below to familiarize yourself with how these scams work and how to protect yourself!
More questions? Contact email@example.com
How these scams work, what to watch for and how to thwart them.
These are phishing scams. Members and friends of our congregation have been seeing and receiving multiple phishing emails, that seem to be from MDUUC ministers and staff or from members to each other. While we cannot stop them from coming into our inboxes, we can control how we react to them to protect ourselves and hopefully discourage the scammers from continuing to target our congregation.
How it works:
One of the most successful phishing scams involves a boss, minister, coworker, or friend asking you to go out & buy gift cards. It uses clever social engineering, not advanced technology. Here's how you can spot & avoid the "gift card" scam.
Ask yourself: if your boss/minister/friend wanted to give out gift cards, how would they order those gift cards? Would they send you an email asking you to rush out and buy some, and then ask you to scratch off the backs and email the codes?
Probably not. Yet this exact scenario has become a prolific, and unusually successful, email phishing scam.
The scam goes like this:
You receive a ‘plain text’ email. The email appears to come from someone they are familiar with.
In the email, the sender asks you to buy some gift cards. Note: sometimes they try to get your attention first - with things like "I need urgent help with something today" or "Can you do something for me" or something similar. If you reply, it leads to asking for help in buying gift cards.
Once you tell them you've bought the gift cards, the email asks you to scratch off the gift card backings to display the unique PIN codes and email those codes back to them.
The scammer takes the code, cashes out the gift card in minutes, and vanishes.
This scam has made the rounds since mid-2018. That cybercriminals still use it means it still works. They have ramped up the scam in the time of Covid-19 - counting on our goodwill for each other to help them succeed!
Several of our members have reported receiving such emails—unfortunately, some falling for them—within the last few months.
As scams go, this one's clever. How does it work so well?
- It uses a "display-name spoof" – putting a real person's name in the "From" field. (Often either the name or subject is in all CAPS - which is a clue to look for!)
- The text of the email reads like the person actually wrote it. We can spot terrible grammar a mile away. Normal grammar, however, that doesn't ring alarm bells.
- We are a loving congregation —so when we’re given a mission, we are eager to help!
- Sometimes the scam uses a time limit, e.g. "Can you do this before end of day?" This creates a sense of urgency, which compels action with little time to think.
Defeating the scam is simple.
- First, hit Reply to the email and check the return email address for the "request." Chances are it's not your boss/minister/coworker or friend's email address. Delete that email (do NOT send it).
- Next, send a separate email to that person asking if they sent the first message. Chances are they didn't. (Or call them, or call us at 925-934-3135 Ext 0)
That's all. One email (or call) and one check, and you avoid a scam that could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars!
We do not know if responding compromises your account in any way - so it's best to not engage with the senders at all if possible. If you are not sure, follow step 2 above and you will never need to worry!
No one from MDUUC will EVER ask you to buy gift cards or send money directly via email. We only encourage donations sent directly to the church office, or via our mduuc.org/give page. We encourage you to double-check with us if you are unsure of a request.
More questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Some Samples of the kinds of emails used in the scam -
if you get one, defeat the scam using steps 1 & 2 above
I need you to do a chore to purchase Google Play gift cards from Target / Safeway or any other nearby store. Let me know when you receive this email for the amount and denominations you are to purchase then look forward to my response.
Sent from my iPhone
Jane, could you please email me back? I need a favor.
Sally, are you available at the moment? I need you to handle a project. Very busy at the moment. Can't talk. Just send an email when you receive this. Thanks.
I need you to pick up three Home Depot gift cards for our project.
Good to hear from you. I need to get three iTunes gift cards for my niece. It's her birthday but I can't do this now because I'm currently traveling. Can you get them for me from any store around you? I'll pay back next week when I get back home.
Sitting in a meeting right now, there is something i need you to do. Let me know when you are available.
Hello, are you available? Please i need your assistance urgently.
Okay thanks, I was hoping you could help me get some amazon gift cards from
the store, I will reimburse you when I’m done with my conference, I need to
send it to someone now and it is very important because it’s one of my best
friend kid birthday and I fear I may not get it on time myself if I decide
to wait it out.
Subject:Are you available?
Are you available ? I need you to handle something for me now, i'm currently in a meeting with limited phone call and also experiencing some difficulties at the moment, just reply my e-mail if you are available.Thanks
I need you to personally run a task for me ASAP as I am occupied in a meeting at the moment and can't talk but will lookout for your reply and let me know if you can get this done right now.