Your pastor is not going to send you an email asking you to buy a gift card for his sick friend in the hospital.

He’s not going to ask you, in subsequent emails, to scratch off the PIN numbers, take a photo and send it to his “friend” in an email.

But someone who has created an email account in your pastor’s name might ask you to do so.

Much like the princes of Nigeria, heirless widows with millions to distribute before their rapidly approaching deaths and that long-lost friend who has lost her luggage and is stuck in London without a passport, these pleas and others like them are scams.

Parishes from Byron to Alameda have reported similar stories. The emails are usually sent noting that the pastor is away from the office and can’t do this himself.

“It’s a huge violation,” said Rev. Aidan McAleenan, pastor of St. Columba. “People are being kind and wanting to help you.”

Vigilance may be the best protection against such scams.

“Step away from the urgency of the email,” Andrew Utiger, IT director of the Diocese of Oakland suggests. Don’t click on links or attachments, he advises.

Ask yourself: Does this make sense? Is it truly from who I think it is from?

If you are thinking of going forward, call the church — at a phone number you know, not one that might be in the email — to verify the request.

Full story at Catholic Voice Oakland.