Con artist poses as real catholic priest

NOW: Con artist poses as real catholic priest

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Parishioners of various churches in the South Bend area have recently been targeted in an email scam with the scammer impersonating their catholic priest. 

One man, Chris Wharton, felt the hurt of trusting this scammer just two weeks ago when he got an email he thought was from Fr. Terry Coonan, the pastor at Little Flower Catholic Church. The email that was sent to all parishioners, spoke in the name of Fr. Terry asking for money to help women in the area fighting breast cancer.

Wharton, wanting to help, responded and followed the scammers instructions in a 13 message email chain describing how he needed to buy ebate gift cards, scratch off the back numbers, and then email a picture of those numbers back with the added assurance that Wharton would be paid back the next day.

Wharton gave $400 to the scammers, which was lower than the $800 they originally asked for. Wharton was dismayed to learn that his money had been swindled after he went in to talk with Fr. Terry about the assumed reimbursement.

Wharton filed a police report explaining the scam and the emails and Fr. Terry wrote a message in the bulletin and voiced the message at the end of all masses to warn other parishioners before they to tried to help. 

Chief Deputy Prosecuter Eric Tamashasky said that scams like this happen every day and that there is not a whole lot anyone can do to prevent them from occuring. However, people need to be diligent in who they trust online. He recommends that people always go to the person they are talking to to verify that whatever was being sent in an email or discussed over a phone call was legitimate.

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