Fraud alert: Email request scam spoofs several rabbis in region

An email spoofing scam has hit several congregations in the region, where the rabbi supposedly sends out an email requesting gift cards or looking for personal information.

Over the weekend, rabbis in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Montgomery reported having spoofed emails, and today two New Orleans congregations issued warnings about similar emails going out to congregants.

In one instance, the subject was “Shabbat Shalom” and the return email address had the rabbi’s name, a dot, then the congregation’s domain name, but then all that was — rather than the rabbi’s actual email.

In the body of the message, eBay or iTunes gift cards were requested “for some women going through cancer at the hospital,” and asking the recipient to purchase cards “from any store around you possibly now” with the promise of being reimbursed later.

In those cases, the scammer will ask for the codes on the back of the cards, not the physical cards, which is enough information for them to use the balance on the cards.

Another tactic is to send a short note simply asking how the recipient is doing, with “I need a favor from you, email me as soon as you get this message,” as a way of getting a response that can be followed up with a similar request.

One giveaway was that in at least one case, the email was sent during Shabbat, supposedly from a Conservative rabbi.

The congregations involved and the Jewish Federation of Central Alabama all sent out blanket emails warning the community of the scam attempts, and to not respond to any such emails.