The Tablet Staff
NEW YORK — This week, the Archdiocese of New York is cautioning parishioners to beware of online scammers, after some received messages on social media requesting donations from what appeared to be Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
In a September 16 Tweet, Cardinal Dolan wrote, “I’ve heard from some of you you’ve received Facebook or Twitter messages from an account pretending to be me. Please know I will never reach out privately on social media to ask for donations.”
According to local reports, at least four people had received messages from an individual claiming to be Cardinal Dolan, requesting that they send a gift card to be donated to people in need.
This follows a similar phishing trend in the Diocese of Brooklyn where online scammers contact parishioners via text message requesting that they purchase hundreds of dollars worth of gifts cards as charitable church donations.
“Sadly, we’ve seen this scam being used in the past few months with other religious figures – pastors, priests, other clergy – being impersonated, and so wanted to remind people that Cardinal Dolan will never solicit donations in this way,” Joseph Zwilling, Archdiocesan Director of Communications, told Catholic News Agency.
“To the best of my knowledge, nobody fell for the scam; at least those who contacted us knew it was bogus,” he said. “We decided to remind people on the Cardinal’s social media accounts that he will never request funds or solicit donations in this way, just to be safe.”
“While the internet and social media can be great tools of evangelization, they can also be used by unscrupulous individuals seeking to ‘rip-off’ trusting and generous people,” Zwilling explained.
Via Twitter, Cardinal Dolan also urged those who have received such messages to report them to the Archdiocese at archny.org/contact.