What You Need to Know About a Scam Targeting Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Donations, Donations Scams, Faith, Queens, NY, Scam, Scammer

By Emily Drooby

“I need a favor from you, please text me back as soon as possible,” reads Father JosephJude Gannon.

It’s a text message sent to his parishioner. It was sent under his name, but it’s not from him — it’s from a scammer.

“Oh, it’s disgusting that they’re using my name and they’re using the Church’s good name to be able to do their nefarious deeds,” he told Currents News.

At least four of his parishioners have gotten this text.

The Shrine Church of St. Gerard Majella is just the latest target of a message scam where the scammer, or scammers, pose as a pastor and ask parishioners for money.

In May of 2019, a similar scam targeted other Catholics in the Diocese of Brooklyn. At one point they even posed as Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.

Now, the scam is back. This time, the texts say the donations will help patients battling the coronavirus.

Denise Das’ family was on the receiving end.

“They really push you, they make you feel very, ‘Oh my God I need to do it right now.’ That’s very dangerous,” she added, “It keeps calling me all Sunday until I blocked. It keeps saying, “Oh I need it right now, did you get it? Why are you not sending to me?'”

Denise works for Fr. Gannon so she knows his cell phone number, which is how she was able to recognize the scam. However, she says she could see how someone could be victimized, especially with how aggressive the scammer was being.

Fr. Gannon says he would never text a parishioner for a donation.

“Absolutely not, that’s not the normal way we would do that, we would have a personal conversation with them,” he said.

The scammer also hit at least three parishioners at St. Helens Church in Howard Beach, Queens.

The church’s pastor, Father Francis Colamaria said, “I’m feeling dishearten by this, there are people who are trolling our information online and then taking advantage of our parishioners.”

Maria Scaramuzzino recently received a text. She was also targeted back in 2019. Luckily, she didn’t give them any money, but unfortunately some have.

“You are taking advantage of people who are faith based, who are going to help their priest and their church,” she explained.

The texts have also popped up at Holy Family Church in Fresh Meadows, Queens.

If you or somebody that you know receives one of these text messages, the best thing to do is to report it to the police and to your pastor.