We have in the past warned about a fairly sophisticated scam being worked on churches, welcoming organizations, and religious groups. The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB) has just warned its members and peer organizations of attempts against them. We thought it prudent to remind you by sending you the warning they sent out.
There is an individual or group of individuals attempting to perpetrate a scam on people from welcoming churches and groups. The perpetrator claims to be someone you know, or know of, and who is supposedly stranded or has been mugged while traveling. As part of the scam the person phoned is asked to send money, usually $500, by wire transfer. The perpetrators claims to need money to get home or for medical expenses. If you know the voice of the person the perpetrator claims to be, the scammers say they are not able to speak normally for some reason.
This scam has reappeared periodically in one form or another over the last ten years. It is not just good folks associated with AWAB who are the targets. The same scam has been pulled on churches and individuals from the UCC, the Brethren-Mennonites, and other denominations and organizations.
The scammer has also been known to phone people "phishing" for information that can be used to scam others. In the latest scam, the perpetrator has called claiming to be someone researching same-sex marriage and looking for referrals of people to interview. Of course the people referred are later targets of the scam.
In the latest scam, the perpetrator claimed to be a member, but mispronounced his name. In the past they have claimed to be various people from AWAB and other organizations. The story and the name of the person in portrayed as being in distress can change as the perpetrator gains information attained by phishing along the way.
Unfortunately this scam has worked over the years. Both churches and individuals have been scammed out of money. We all want to extend a hand of charity to those in need when we can. But this goodwill has been taken advantage of as recently as Saturday. [This refers to an incident in AWAB, not in LC/NA.]
We would like to offer a few common sense tips that we might not think of when someone we think we know appears to be in distress. If you ever get such a call asking for money, ask for a call back number. If the person is for real, he should be able to provide this type of information. Offer to call someone at a local church, family member or police for him. Chances are he will reemphasize the wire transfer since it is not help but money he seeks. Do not send money by wire transfer to someone unless you are absolutely sure you know the person.
We hope no one else is a victim of this cruel scam targeting the goodwill of people, churches and organizations.