A broad phishing scam aimed at Pittsburgh’s Jewish community hit the email inboxes of scores of synagogue members late last week and over the weekend.
The emails, which purported to come from Pittsburgh-area rabbis — including the rabbis of Temple Sinai, Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha, Poale Zedeck, Temple Emanuel of South Hills and Beth El Congregation of the South Hills — all came from spoofed accounts, according to Shawn Brokos, director of community security for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. The message in the emails begins: “Shalom Aleichem … I need an assistance from you?”
Brokos is working with law enforcement in an effort to determine the individual or group behind the scam.
These types of email phishing scams are “very hard to trace,” Brokos said, and often lead to criminals in Africa or Eastern Europe who are “happy to get even one, two, three or four people to respond. They email you, then ask you to send money or gift cards, and they cast a wide net.”
Anyone receiving a suspicious email purportedly coming from a rabbi should be on the lookout for verbiage that indicates that English is not the first language of the sender. Because most rabbis’ email accounts end in “.org,” people also should be on the lookout for emails purportedly from their rabbis that are from gmail accounts.
Anyone unsure if an email legitimately came from a rabbi should close out the suspicious email and contact the rabbi at his or her known email address to inquire, said Brokos.
She also warned the community to not respond to the suspicious emails and to report them to the FBI’s cyber fraud website, IC3.gov.
“The more people who report it, the better chance we have of tracing it,” she said.
Any questions can be directed to Brokos at firstname.lastname@example.org. PJC