God's Word for today

Monday, 18 February 2008

Churches not immune from fraud

I found this recently on the website of the South African Council of Churches. Congregations are warned to be alert to scams of this nature, lest they fall victim.


An unscrupulous individual has apparently been attempting to defraud churches by posing as an employee of the South African Council of Churches (SACC).

A few congregations have called the SACC to inquire about the payment of donations promised during the Christmas holidays by someone claiming to be a Council staffer.

The fraudster, who uses the names James Khoza and James Adamson, called the churches to request their banking details. He said that he was from the SACC and that the Council was planning to make sizeable donations to the congregations. Shortly thereafter, a somewhat smaller amount appeared to have been deposited in the churches’ accounts.

When church officials telephoned the cell number given by the fake Council “employee” to query the discrepancies, they were told that an error had been made on the cheque and that a new cheque would be issued. However, as the cheque ostensibly needed to be issued for the full amount, the churches were asked to return immediately the funds already deposited.

The scam only became apparent a few days later when the original “deposit” did not clear, and the church was unable to recover the funds that they had dutifully “returned” to the imposter.

Council staff only learned of the swindle after the holidays when an anxious church leader contacted the SACC’s office to find out where the funds were. The Council has since drawn the scheme to the attention of the bank concerned and has reported the matter to SAPS.

The General Secretary of the SACC, Mr. Eddie Makue, expressed outrage and regret over the exploitation of local congregations, most of which operate on a shoestring. “It is especially shocking that someone would use the Christmas season, a time associated with goodwill and giving, as an excuse to take advantage of unsuspecting churches.”

Makue noted that the SACC is an association of Christian denominations. It works primarily with and at the direction of the national offices of denominations and does not make grants to local churches. He urged congregations and the public at large to be wary of any offer or scheme that seemed unreasonably advantageous.

Although the fraudster's name changes, he has consistently supplied the telephone numbers (011) 725 1669 and (073) 450 9848.

Any congregation that receives such an offer from someone claiming to be a Council employee is advised to call the South African Council of Churches on (011) 241-7800 to confirm its legitimacy.

No comments: