Several weeks ago I got a call from a parishioner. She said she had received a text message purporting to be from me asking for money to help someone who was in need. The text message asked them to go online and buy online gift cards. She asked if this text message was from me. It was absolutely not from me! Just yesterday I was with my priest support group that all priests are encouraged to have. One of the priests in my group said several of his parishioners received similar text messages. One of his parishioners actually thought it was legit, went online, and bought an online gift card. Unfortunately we live in a world of great fraud. I am pretty sure I know how this happened. In our case this person’s cell phone number was listed on our St. Mary parish website. It didn’t take much for the imposter to get my name, find her number, and send her a text message.
When I arrived here the parish bulletin used to post the phone numbers of the Grand Knight for the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Daughters Regent, and many other phone numbers. I stopped that because of these concerns. The only phone number I put on our bulletin or the parish website is the St. Mary number 405-282-4239. With our phone system I have it automatically pick up every call and put the call to a menu so Kim (our parish secretary) doesn’t have to pick up every call. You would be surprised how many calls she used to get that were scams or telemarketers! A lot of her working day was running to answer phone calls from these people. As any of you who own a phone know, robocalls are almost the majority of phone calls made these days.
I didn’t know this one person’s number was listed on our website and so they were the only one to receive a fraudulent text message. Please do know I will never text or email you asking for money. I will also never call you over the phone to ask for money. I have gone online and removed their phone number from our website. My policy is that no phone numbers or email are available on the website except our one general email for the parish office. There are just too many ways this information can be used and so we must protect it.
If you ever need to contact anyone be it the Director of Family Formation, Deacon Jim, the Catholic Daughters, Knights of Columbus, or anyone affiliated with St. Mary please call the parish office and we will be happy to connect you with whoever is in charge of the group or organization you are seeking. I know it means a few extra steps, but our priority must be to protect people’s information so it is not used in a fraudulent way. I am angry someone attempted to use my name to get one of our parishioners to give to a scam. I am so happy they called me because it all seemed a bit too fishy!
Finally remember summer is nearly upon us. Don’t take a vacation from Mass. If you and your family travel this summer look ahead, find the Catholic Churches where you are traveling and go to Sunday Mass. Use your trip as a way to live your faith in an adventurous way. I look forward to hearing about your parish adventures when you return from your travels! -Fr. W.