Scammers target local parishioners

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Scammers are targeting some area parishioners.

Last week, the Diocese of Austin sent an alert to its parishes informing them about a text scam that's hitting up congregations in the area.

It happened to a member of St. Louis Catholic Church in Waco, who got a text that appeared to be from the priest, Father Ryan, asking for an iTunes gift card for someone in need.

The text was a bit urgent, but it looked like the priest was actually reaching out.

There is a Father Ryan who actually presides at this church, but he didn’t send the text.

Christian Gonzalez, director of communications for the Diocese of Austin, says so far dozens of parishes have been contacted by the scammers.

Only one person fell for it but it’s happening across the state and around the country.

He said the scammers are looking at old church bulletins online and getting the name of the priest or pastor and then finding names and phone numbers.

"We want everyone not only Catholics but everyone to know, who is involved in church, whatever their faith, to know that this scam is ongoing and to just use the street smarts and the common sense and take a second look at the phone number and make sure is that an area code I recognize or is it an area code from far away. Is this really my pastor, my priest?"

He said make sure to pay attention to the grammar to determine if the sender is speaking as a faith leader would normally speak.

He added, the church will ask for donations, but it would communicate the request to its congregation or parishioners through the usual manner, not in the form of an urgent text.

Gonzalez said the Texas Attorney General's Office has inquired about these incidents and is looking into it.