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Formerly Westchester PC Users Group (WPCUG)

Press Releases

    March 2023

    Fake Emails Scam for Religious Donations
    Be Alert! Fraudsters Email Congregations Members in Names of Local Clergy

    Fake emails and texts sent to members of religious groups asking for cash or gift cards—in the name of local clergy—are an epidemic online fraud nationally and appearing in the Westchester County area, alerts a local technology enthusiast group.

    Four such scams have been identified in the Westchester County region in recent months, according to TechEdConnectSM, a 41-year-old local community-service group previously known as Westchester PC Users Group ( The fraudulent emails/texts are dressed up to appear to be from a local clergy.

    This is widespread in many other regions and it’s only a matter of time before the fraudsters start saturating our Westchester suburban area because of its affluence, says Pierre Darmon, president of TechEdConnectSM. We’re aware of four area houses of worship that warned their congregations of fake emails soliciting money in the name of local clergy. When people see a familiar local name, they often let their guards down.

    Darmon, who is a White Plains-based computer consultant, adds, This is prevalent because the scammers realize that the public is accustomed to making financial donations to religious organizations. TechEdConnectSM advises:

    • Don’t reply by clicking links or use phone numbers within the received emails/texts, even if the sender’s name is familiar, because those could connect to fraudsters. Better to verify by contacting directly.
    • Take a close look at any sender’s email address. If the domain is not a religious organization but rather a general-purpose Gmail or AOL domain, that’s a signal the message may not be genuine.
    • For texts, see if the clergy sender’s area code is not local. If not local, it might be fake.
    • Be skeptical of messages that claim manufactured urgencies. An example is clergy asserts having to make hospital visits to comfort the ill so asks the congregation member as a favor to get cash cards and the like.
    • Be skeptical if clergy promises swift repayment at a later date.
    • Be skeptical if the sender says not to deliver to a house of worship but rather asks to receive by email or text the redemption pin numbers on purchased gift cards.

    Online scams are multiplying. Falling victim to cyber scams always seems to happen to the nicest people, says Jonathan Hauff, a Mamaroneck-based computer advisor and past president of TechEdConnectSM. Scammers are now increasingly targeting members of religious organizations because scammers know that they are accustomed to making cash donations. While the fake email and texts are still being used to get money, scammers are now using more subtle methods. A faked ‘purchase’ or a ‘refund’ for some item, program, or service that was never made is received, and provide a phone number to call. The number is, of course, the scammer’s, and the con game begins.

    Many persons would think national or global scammers wouldn’t have access to the name, email or cell phone/text address of local religious persons. However, that information is posted openly online so seeing a familiar local name in a received email or text is no assurance of authenticity.

    Contact lists of entire congregations can be obtained by simply snagging one email from a legitimate email blast from a house of worship since it has all recipient addresses. Also, congregation mailing lists can be hacked where ever stored.

    Area New York law enforcement says that, so far, fake emails targeting religious congregations are not a big problem in the Westchester area and most houses of worship keep a low profile on the topic.

    However, examples of cleric identity misappropriation abound nationally. Law enforcement publicized complaints from across the country: Grand Rapids MI, Austin TX, Scranton PA, North Mississippi, and Phoenix AZ, for example. State attorney generals in Ohio, Mississippi and Texas have issued alerts about fake scams to collect money or gift cards from those connected to religious organizations.

    And fraudsters keep trying. A cleric at a White Plains church earlier this year surprised a worship service with an announcement that fake emails in his name were received by parishioners. Let me assure you that I will never ask for money from you in an email, he said. I will only ask for money in person, which drew chuckles.

    -Article by Robert Marich

    Reprinted in Pelham Examiner, News Break
    Cited by News 12 Westchester

  • Local Computer Enthusiasts Help Virus Cure From Comfort Of Their Homes
    Joe Bruno, WPCUG workshop leader
    July 13, 2020-Members of a Westchester County computer club are assisting researchers to battle the Coronavirus from the comfort of their homes and are looking for others to join. To participate, volunteers simply donate unused number-crunching power from their personal computers. In doing so, local residents help distant virus researchers, who stitch together "distributed" computing capacity for bio-molecular research into "folding."

    The local club—Westchester PC Users Group (—will conduct a free open Zoom workshop July 27-Monday at 7pm for others who want to join the effort. Anyone interested should email

    Sleepy Hollow-resident Joe Bruno is one of four locals already "folding" who are members of WPCUG. The home computer club for enthusiasts was founded in 1981 that today has 170 area members.

    Bruno lets distant researchers tap six computers in his home. "It’s great to take something that I enjoy--playing with computers—and use it for the good of mankind," says Joe Bruno, who is a retired computer consultant.

    The national research—run by the non-profit Folding@Home Consortium (FAHC)—studies the molecular structures of human protein and seeks a cure for related diseases. Under a microscope, the human proteins look like ribbons dotted with balls that naturally combine in what is called "folding." But sometimes they "mis-fold," activating malignant cells such as cancer cells. Scientists run vast number of simulations—which require the distributed computing capacity—to understand protein architecture and sequencing, to design cures for mis-folding. Promising simulations are then subject to later-stage experiments.

    The folding project website explains: "By using distributed computing, we can split up the simulation, run each piece through a computer, and then combine them together afterwards. This really sped up our results." Researchers from Stanford University and Washington University in St. Louis take the lead.

    To participate locally in folding requires downloading computer software that takes under a half hour to install. Bruno says that donating computer time is fairly seamless, although participants will use more electricity and generate more heat because their computers will be working harder. Bruno adds that participants have the option of donating computer time when their computers are not in use or all the time.

    The Zoom online workshop on folding is part of a WPCUG initiative offering free summer membership through August 31, where computer enthusiasts can plug in to the club’s 15 monthly workshops to sample activities. Workshop topics include digital photography, photo editing, mobile devices, upgrade & repair, Windows, macOS and the web show. Annual membership is only $50/year. For further information, contact

    -Article by Robert Marich
    Reprinted in Patch, msn news, Yahoo News, News Break, Pelham Examiner.

  • Local Computer Club Puts Digital Photography in Focus
    April 2, 2020-Article by Robert Marich in The Examiner.

  • Educators Fund To Rehab Computers For Disadvantaged Children
    Fraternity of Emile makes a donation
    February 26, 2020-Joseph Vogel (left) of NYC educators non-profit The Fraternity of Emile presents $750 to fund charitable work by the Westchester PC Users Group ( earlier this month in White Plains. Receiving a ceremonial oversized check is WPCUG president Pierre Darmon (right). Volunteers refurbish computers that are donated to disadvantaged recipients as part of WPCUG’s Westchester PC-Renew ( initiative, which rebuilds donated computers that are then presented to educational, veterans, and non-profit groups.

    The Fraternity of Emile, established 125 years ago, is based in New York City and takes its name from a student in classic Rousseau 18th-century literature.

    ABOUT US: Westchester PC Users Group was established in 1981 as a non-profit that conducts workshops and serves as a sounding board for practical knowledge regarding computers and mobile devices. Members can get answers to questions from resident experts, attend drop-in workshops, and tap crowd wisdom to solve their tech problems. Its 170 members are adults from Westchester, the Bronx, Fairfield, and Putnam counties.

    Photo credit: “Photo by Allan Turnbull.”

    Reproduced in the February 28, 2020 Examiner.

  • Local Computer Club Navigates Evolving PC Landscape
    January 3, 2020-Article by Robert Marich in The Examiner.

updated 04/04/2023 - pd