DENVER — At least two churches in the metro area have reported that over the last year scammers have sent emails posing as priests that target church staff and parishioners.
Brady TenBarge, director of youth and young adults at Christ Church in Denver, was about ten days into a new job earlier this year when he opened an email he assumed was from the church's pastor, Father Terry McGugan.
“He just asked if I could please help him out by purchasing a gift card for him for a friend who was actually sick and was dying of cancer," TenBarge said.
TenBarge said the sender went on to request iTunes gift cards and specifically asked him to send the pin number on the backside of each card.
“That’s when I knew that I’d been scammed," TenBarge said. “Yeah, I felt quite foolish to be honest."
A similar message was sent out to parishioners of a church in Aurora.
This one was from someone claiming to be Father Terry Kissell, the pastor at St. Michael the Archangel.
“Most of them, in the beginning, took that email very literally without even noticing it wasn’t [Fr. Kissell's] return address," said Teri Vasicek, the business administrator at St. Michael's.
She said she has worked at the church long enough to spot a scam. But while she didn't fall for the email, she said that some parishioners did.
One member of the church spent $1200 on gift cards, Vasicek said.
“You know, after the fact, there’s very little you can do," she said.
To help try and keep anyone else from losing money on the scam, Father Kissell recently sent out a warning to parishioners about the scam.
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