Last week, several parishioners and church employees of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Malverne received a text message from a con artist posing as the parish’s pastor.
The con artist, who posed as the Rev. Michael Duffy, sent an initial text asking them to reply as soon as possible. Once the person responded, they received another message requesting for a $500 Google Play gift card for a friend in the hospital with cancer. The message also said that Duffy was too busy to get the gift card himself, and that the person who received the message could pick up the card for from any store and would later be paid back.
“A lot of people know that I visit hospitals to offer prayers and support, so I’m sad that something like this would ever happen,” Duffy said. “It’s just sick and evil.”
Residents on social media said incidents like this have occurred on several occasions in the past, but they knew that it was indeed a con artist. Duffy said that parishioners had shared the text with him on the same night it occurred.
“When I read the text, I thought it was so ridiculous,” Duffy said. “Who texts like that? It was so obvious that it was a con artist and thankfully, nobody fell for it.”
Duffy said that both locally and nationally, priests and worship leaders have dealt with con artists in their respective communities. “It’s happened to every local priest that I talked to,” he said.
In OLL’s case, Duffy said that the con artist got access to the church’s parishioners through their contact list online, which the church publicly shares to engage with people in the community.
In February, Duffy said that the con artist had done a similar scheme via email. Around that time, the church was having trouble with their hot water system, but because of the scammers lurking, Duffy said that parishioners were a bit hesitant to respond.
“It’s difficult at times to deal with a con artist, especially for some of our elderly members,” Duffy said. “What residents should know is that at no point will any Catholic priest ask for money, especially when the word gift card comes up.”
Duffy added that while the church holds several events in the community such as fundraisers, there would never be an immediate need for money from any place of worship. If residents have any questions, Duffy urged them to call the church’s directory at (516) 599-1269, or wait until OLL’s office opens to reach out.
“You should always take time to confirm a message and to do your due diligence,” Duffy said. “It’s sad that someone out there is taking advantage of a priest’s good name. But I’m glad that the news about this incident is getting out to the media. I’m hoping that moving forward, as people become more aware of this, that they will know how to point out a con artist.”