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Protecting Your Church From Online Threats (part 1)

It’s in the news everyday: unsuspecting people fall victim to an online scam, like the infamous Nigerian email scam (i.e. I have $500,000 to give you, but you need to send me $1,000 for legal fees), or promises of great investment returns that turn out to be Ponzi schemes (think Bernie Madoff). Unfortunately, fraudsters never stop trying to find ways to take advantage of unsuspecting people, and our churches are not immune. Consider these examples:

  • Last year, Michael Winans Jr., the Grammy-nominated gospel singer, was convicted of stealing $8 million dollars from Christians who were promised a quick return on their investment.
  • One pastor’s Facebook credentials were compromised because he clicked on a video link that someone sent him. He was redirected to the Facebook login screen and entered his login credentials. Unfortunately, this was not the real Facebook login site, and the scammers used his credentials to take over his Facebook page and scam others.
  • A pastor in Oregon replied to an official-looking email from Yahoo which asked for her login information. She completed the form, and ended up getting locked out of her account. Almost immediately, her friends starting getting emails from “her” that said she had been robbed while ministering overseas and needed $1,400 wired to a specific account in order to get back home.
  • One pastor fell victim to an email scheme and lost $48,000. An unsolicited email from his credit card company appeared authentic, but was really a phishing scheme asking for personal account information. The pastor replied to the email, and the scammers immediately accessed his credit card account.

In today’s digitally-connected world, we are constantly exposed to electronic threats. And your church is just as vulnerable. Whether viruses, spam, trojans, malware, phishing or smishing schemes, hackers never stop trying to find ways attack. What can you do to keep your ministry and personal computing safe? In my next post, I’ll provide 12 best practices to protect your church’s computer systems.


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