identity theft | 

Priest warns of scammer impersonating him in attempt to con people out of money

“This is not me. This fraudster is asking people for money. I’ve tried everything, to no avail”

Fr Paddy McCafferty

Niamh CampbellBelfast Telegraph

A priest based in west Belfast has warned of a social media account that is impersonating him in an attempt to scam people for their money.

Father Paddy McCafferty said that this ‘form of identity theft’ has been ongoing for ‘a couple of years’, and has left him feeling frustrated and helpless.

"Now the account is mainly on Twitter, but the person was also on Facebook and Instagram too. People reported it, it would get shut down and they would then pop up again somewhere else,” he explained.

The Ballymurphy clergyman shared the fake profile to his own Twitter page on Wednesday, writing: “This is not me. This, whoever this is, is impersonating me, using photos from Facebook etc. This fraudster is asking people for money. I’ve tried everything, including the police, to no avail.”

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One post on Tuesday from the imposter pretending to be the cleric states: “Your Prayers are Very important to me Right Now . I Pray everything Works Perfect tomorrow Which is Wednesday.

“I Believe All Your Prayers Will go a long way for Me. Blessings to You All. Fr Paddy.”

Father McCafferty said his impersonator “messages people and after a certain point he asks for money for different causes, tugging on heartstrings”.

“It’s very annoying, the fact that someone is using your identity to try and swindle people out of money, and is doing so with impunity,” he continued.

"I don’t know if he’s ever gotten money out of anybody, but people have contacted me to say ‘is this you?’ and I say ‘no it’s not’, and they’ve sent me screenshots of different exchanges."

However, Father McCafferty fears that “maybe a vulnerable person could be fooled into parting with a substantial amount of money” as the fraudulent account has previously asked members of the public for money transfers of “up to £700”.

He added: "It’s the fact that he is using my name and photographs from my social media accounts; it’s a type of identity theft.”

The Corpus Christi parish priest said that he has reported some of these incidents to the police before, but feels they are “useless”.

In the past he has contacted Action Fraud, which is the national reporting centre for collecting reports of fraud and cybercrime on behalf of the police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, he said he was told that what he is dealing with “is not a crime” and that no one specifically from the PSNI has ever been in touch with him regarding the fake accounts.

"I’ve done everything I possibly can,” he said. “Police should have the tools to find out and track this person to stop them, but we’ve never gotten anywhere.”

Whilst impersonating someone online can be a crime in certain areas of the US, it is not an illegal act in the UK. The only exception to the rule is if you impersonate a police officer or a solicitor.

However, can be difficult for impersonation online to occur without the offender committing another criminal or civil offence such as harassment, fraud, breach of privacy or misuse of private information.

The PSNI and Action Fraud have bee contacted for further comment.

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