The Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center is calling on the public to beware of an email scam that has targeted the Jewish community, as well as other religious communities across the country.
A public notice posted by the PJTC on its website says hackers are “seemingly running a nationwide extortion scheme” where the hackers are sending emails to members of congregations, using fake email addresses of congregation leaders.
“Fake Gmail accounts were created under the names of Rabbi John Carrier and Claire Gorfinkel,” the notice said. “Pretending to be them, the scammer reaches out with a short, personal request or a quick favor. When the recipient responds, the scammer then advises he is very busy and asks the recipient to send gift cards to patients in a hospital and he will pay them back for the cost.”
The notice said the public should watch out for this type of email and should not respond to them.
The notice also offered advice on how to identify real PJTC communications from fake ones, saying Rabbi John Carrier, Claire Gorfinkel and the rest of the PJTC staff, clergy and leadership use emails with the domain www.pjtc.net when contacting people about PJTC affairs.
“If you receive a PJTC email from another domain, please do not respond to it. Instead, you can forward it to email@example.com and we can help you determine if it is indeed a scam,” the notice said.
PJTC also clarified any and all payment requests from the PJTC will come in the form of paper statements, and that they do not request money via email. The PJTC also does send out fundraising emails and share fundraising posts on social media.
The organization also said they will never ask for money to be sent directly from an email or post outside of their verifiable methods: credit card payments made with the information stored in the member portal on their website, and credit card payments made by calling the PJTC and providing credit card information over the phone.
“If you ever receive a phone call from someone calling you in need of credit card information, it is good practice to hang up and call the person back at the company’s main phone number to ensure you are speaking with legitimate staff,” the notice said.
For verification purposes, the PJTC’s main phone number is (626) 798-1161. Online payments may only be made on the donation page of the PJTC website, or at this address.
Check payments made by dropping off or mailing the check to the PJTC address, at 1434 Altadena Drive, Pasadena.
“Please remain vigilant as you open emails and look for signs of phishing scams like this when you are asked for any money, gifts or personal information,” the PJTC notice said.