Scam involving thieves posing as priests targeting church members spreads across Metro Detroit

Thieves target elderly members of church congregations

OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. – A disturbing scam involving thieves posing as priests and targeting elderly members of church congregations is spreading across Metro Detroit.

Help Me Hank warned viewers about the scam July 23, but several people have fallen victim, and police said more churches are being targeted.

A new alert was recently posted in an Oakland County church after victims thought they were helping their priest and other members of the congregation, Instead, they were targeted in the elaborate scam.

When Help Me Hank first learned about the scam, only a handful of churches in Macomb County had been targeted.

Former Police Chief Mike Laretti, the current church council chairperson at St. Paul of Tarsus, in Clinton Township, called Local 4 when the scam reached his church.

Someone hacked into the email list of parishioners, sent an email that appeared to be from the priest and asked for donations for a sick family. But the email isn't from the priest. It's from scammers asking elderly victims to buy gift cards.

On Sunday, other churches, including St. Hugo, in Bloomfield Hills, issued warnings about the scam hitting them.

In one case, the email appeared to be from the priest and asked parishioners to send iTunes gift cards to help a friend of the priest with cancer.

Help Me Hank has heard from other churches in Macomb, Oakland and Monroe counties that were targeted by the scammers. Church members shouldn't open emails from addresses they don't recognize.

Call police if you receive an email similar to those described above. Contact church officials so they can alert other members.

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