Omaha priest's congregation target of phone scam
A time of crisis brings out the best in people and con men are trying to take advantage of it.
They're using a trusted name in an attempt to fool those willing to help.
A strong belief in the spoken word is why the Rev. John Pietramale has a flip phone.
Father Pietramale said, "The people in my parish know I'm a person who will dial you, I don't text you."
So members of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church like Larry Eckley got a suspicious text.
"This is Father John Pietramale I need your help, please text me back immediately,” Eckley read aloud.
It came from a phone number just one digit off from father's cell.
Pietramale said, "Especially people who don't keep my contact in their phone, are going to get it and respond right away thinking ok father needs some money, let's help him, let's call this
Ministering to a large parish, Father Pietramale says his cell number is easy to find.
Eckley said, "So that's why I'm thinking somehow they got into your contacts."
800 families in the parish have been notified that father didn't send out the text asking for help, implying they should provide money. So far there's no indication anyone has fallen for the scam but
though there's still a possibility haven't come forward."
Larry believes some will see father's name but not notice the text one digit off his cell number.
Eckley said, "If an elderly person in the parish got it, they're not going to hesitate to respond to father in any way he needs, especially with what's going on in the country."
Father Pietramale says the text scam shows that good hearts can be vulnerable to people with bad intentions.
"This is unfortunate that people are using this time of crisis in our country to do these kinds of things,” he said.
A warning that scammers are trying to prey on them with phony texts will hopefully make sure that parishioners' generosity goes to the right places.
6 On Your Side called the phony text number and got a standard automated voicemail but no response.
If someone asks for help by text, always talk to the person before sending any money.