Pastor says scammers are hacking accounts to prey on trusting parishioners

DENVER -- A local pastor said Saturday that scammers are targeting pastors and hacking their accounts to prey on trusting parishioners.

Norman Chase said he's fed up after getting his Facebook account hacked numerous times and watching other religious leaders go through the same thing.

"It's really hard for me to say this because I am a man of God but I actually have no feelings toward them," said Chase. "I can forgive, but I can't forget."

Michelle Branon said she was victimized by the scammers that hacked into Chase's account. Branon messaged her pastor on Facebook messenger asking him to pray for her.

"I was going through hard times, as a lot of people do, and I had texted my pastor," said Branon.

Almost instantly, she got a message back from Chase that said he had just received a grant and was trying to figure out how to spend the money.

A follow-up message said he would send her the contact information for the company so she could apply for a grant too.

She texted the company and after exchanging some messages that included personal information, she was told she was approved for a grant.

"I said 'Hallejulah. This is awesome.' I was crying, the whole thing. I really took it seriously, I really did," said Branon.

The company messaged her and said she'd receive the money so long as she made down payment.

"I was seriously ready to go out and pawn my car. I was almost out the door to pawn my car to get the money. That's how destitute I was," said Branon.

On her way to the pawn shop, Branon stopped to make a phone call to her pastor. When she took a step back, she realized this deal didn't feel right.

"That's when I started catching on, they are using my pastor to get to me," said Branon.

Branon said it left her feeling frustrated and victimized.

"I felt like a complete idiot, I really did. That I let someone do something like that to me. That I would be so stupid and naive really, to do something like that," said Branon. "It's a horrible thing, it's a horrible thing that they did."

Chase said scammers are hacking into pastors' accounts because it's easier to convince trusting parishioners to fall for a scam if they believe it's coming from a pastor they trust.

Now Branon said she's grateful she didn't fall for it and she's praying for the people who tried to prey on her.

"All I can say about people like that, all I can do is pray for them because they obviously need it more than I do. They are in a worse situation than I am," said Branon.

Branon contacted police but she said they told her, because no money was exchanged, there was nothing they could do.