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Good afternoon Bethel Church Family,  

Identity theft is not a joke and millions of families suffer every year as a result.  Funnily enough, it is also nothing new.  In 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3, Paul writes to the church to encourage them “not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us – whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter – asserting that the day of the Lord has already come.  Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way…”  Clearly, someone had forged a letter from Paul to the church!  To prevent this from happening again, Paul finishes his letter by saying, “I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters.  This is how I write” (2 Thessalonians 3:17).   

In other words, someone was pretending to be Paul in an effort to deceive the church, and Paul writes 2 Thessalonians to clear up the misunderstanding as well as to prevent further deception.   Which brings us to last week…  

There was recently an e-mail that went out from “Pastor Jon Reesor” requesting people to purchase and send “me” several hundred dollars of gift cards.  However, this was not sent from me but was an attempt by someone to scam people in our congregation out of their money.  Fortunately, it seems that only a few people received the e-mail and none of the gift cards were actually delivered.  As a result of this, I want to write to you and make sure that you “don’t let anyone deceive you in anyway.”   In the same way as Paul did, there are a few steps we can take to know whether a letter is truly coming from me, Pastor Jon, or the church office. 

Here are a few ways to keep us as a church family safe from online scams:  

1.      Check the E-mail Address, not Just the Name

  • Always double check the e-mail address when you receive a request for money or gift cards.  Scammers will often set up a fake e-mail that looks like it has the right name (e.g. “Pastor Jon Reesor”) but will use a free or generic e-mail address (e.g. bethelchurch@gmail.com)
  • All Bethel e-mails come from ‘bethelmc.ca’ (for example, “office@bethelmc.ca” or “jon@bethelmc.ca”).
  • If it is not from bethelmc.ca, don’t reply!  Please let the church office know, however, as it is helpful for us to keep an eye out.

2.      Look for the Salutation

  • Sometimes scammers can copy an e-mail address so it will look like it is coming from ‘office@bethelmc.ca’ or ‘jon@bethelmc.ca.’  However, scammers will rarely use a name in an e-mail.  For example, they will say “Hey, can you do something for me?” or “Urgent – help me out!”
  • I will always use a salutation with the name of a person or our church.  For example, “Hey Bob & Susan,” or “Dear Bethel Church Family.”  If an e-mail doesn’t start with your name, the name of a group (e.g. Deacons, Elders, Youth Leaders, etc.) or the name of our church, be very cautious!

3.      Double Check if Uncertain

  • If you receive a request for money or gift cards and you are suspicious, phone the church office and confirm it!  Nobody will be offended.  In fact, we’ll be thankful that you let us know what was going on!

4.      Money + Stranger = Scam

  • If anyone you don’t know calls or e-mails you asking for money because you have “a problem with your computer,” that “the CRA is angry at you,” or that “you will be arrested by the SWAT team in 10 minutes,” it is a scam.
  • If sounds legitimate and you are uncertain, don’t give any financial information but instead hang up.  You can then check with someone you trust or look up the phone number yourself and phone them back to confirm.  Don't ever use the phone number or email address they give you.

If you did receive an e-mail from “Pastor Jon” asking you for money or gift cards recently week, please disregard that e-mail and forward it to the church at office@bethelmc.ca.  We want to ensure that we can work to prevent any further attempts of scammers to steal money from our church family.  

Sincerely,   Pastor Jon   (For real this time)