US Church loses Rs 6.5 crore in email scam

The maintenance heads of a northwestern North Carolina church on Sunday said that cybercriminals stole nearly $800,000 (about Rs 6.5 crore) that the congregation took years in order to build a new sanctuary that’s supposed to be ready in a span of the few months.

News outlets reported that in November, it happened when Elkin Valley Baptist Church got an email that imitated another message from the sanctuary builder with payment instructions.

As per the church officials, the emails from the builder came consecutively every other Friday. The following Monday, a church representative responded to what was the mimicked email.

Johnny Blevins, the church’s senior pastor, told The Elkin Tribune, “We followed those instructions, not knowing, and paid the bill. It wasn’t until several days later that we were contacted by (the builder) about paying the bill and we said, ‘we did pay the bill.’”

The situation was reported to Elkin police, Blevins said, who turned over the case to the FBI.

The bureau is “working to try and help recover the funds through (its) recovery assets team,” Charlotte FBI spokesperson Shelley Lynch told the Winston-Salem Journal.

Meanwhile, the church is moving forward on the project by taking out a loan, Blevins wrote in an online post seeking project donations.

The church had outgrown its previous sanctuary and now meets in its gymnasium, requiring multiple Sunday services to accommodate all its attendees.

Cybercrime is on the rise as hackers continue to steal data, disrupt business and cause harm online. The result is billions of dollars in losses: The total annual loss in the US from cybercrime reached $4.2 billion in 2020, according to data released Tuesday from That amounts to a 55% increase over the last two years.

Out of the total, $1.8 billion, or 42 per cent, came from business email compromises. The most common cybercrimes include phishing, nonpayment scams and extortion, according to the data.

Last year, multiple security breaches resulted in the compromise of millions of people’s data. MGM Resorts reported 10.7 million guests’ data stolen, Marriott saw 5.2 million customer accounts affected.

Malicious cyber activity has often threatened the public’s safety and the national and economic security. The FBI’s cyber motive is to force risk and consequences on cyber adversaries. The goal of federal agencies is to change the behavior of criminals and nation-states who believe they can compromise networks, steal financial or intellectual property. For this to be done, a unique mix of authorities, capabilities, and partnerships are undertaken to tackle offenders.