Bishop Barry C. Knestout is asking members of the Diocese of Richmond to be aware of emails from scammers who are impersonating him.

The emails are from a fake gmail account and begin with a “Hi, how are you doing?” message. They then ask for “assistance from you, email as soon as you get this message.” Upon further response to the fake account, the individual is requested to send a gift card or is asked for financial help related to COVID-19.

The emails are a hoax. All official diocesan email communication comes from an @richmonddiocese.org email address. 

If people receive an email from anyone, no matter their title or position with the diocese or from a parish, soliciting gift cards or cash donations, the bishop said they should exercise extreme caution.

He emphasized that members of the clergy in the Diocese of Richmond do not raise money in this manner nor solicit for gift cards nor for people to verify personal information online. Requests for money are done in churches or through official collections approved by the diocese. 

According to the Virginia Attorney General Office (OAG), scammers are using the COVID-19 pandemic to target Virginians through a variety of phony requests for money. They are warning the public about the scams. More information about the alert from the OAG is available at https://www.oag.state.va.us/consum er-protection/index.php/scams-inform ation/scam-alerts

Anyone who has received suspicious emails or texts can report scams to Virginia’s Consumer Protection Section by visiting consumer@oag.state.va.us and filling out a complaint form or calling 800-552-9963.