Scam Artists Take Advantage of Churches This Holiday Season

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By Jessica Gertler

Churches are always lending a hand during the Christmas season, but because of their willingness to give, CBS 8 News has learned many are being taken advantage of.

"You have a very small percentage of the populous that will try to take advantage of that giving nature," says John Coleman, the rector of the Church of the Ascension in Montgomery.

Coleman says during the holidays, his church has come across all sorts of scams, but the most recent is what he calls a "Yellow Pages Scheme," where someone pretending to work for the Yellow Pages calls and asks the church to renew an add.

"You may have a situation where a church says, 'Yeah, a Yellow Page add. We did a Yellow Page add last year. We definitely want to do another add this year,'" says Coleman. "Before you know it, they've signed up for something that's not what they expected and certainly not what they intended."

Coleman says during Christmas, he's also heard of more individuals duping churches.

"You're entering in winter time. You're entering into a season where a number of families have a legitimate and absolute need," he says. "Some will try to piggy back on that"

Coleman says one way he prevents scams from happening is by not actually giving money to the those in need. He says if someone comes in asking for food, he'll give them food instead of cash to go buy it.

Chief Deputy Derrick Cunningham says unfortunately, churches are an easy target.

"Normally churches give a lot during the holiday season, and a lot of people take that as an opportunity," Cunningham says.

Coleman says he will continue to fight Yellow Pages and Advertising Schemes, but if it's a person trying to fool his church, "that's between them and God. At the end of the day, I'm going to give them food if they say they need food, because that's what we do."

Coleman says he has contacted the Attorney General's Office and the District Attorney's office about the Yellow Pages Scheme, and he says they are spreading the word to other churches.

The Montgomery County Sheriff's office has started a program called Church Watch, where they send out alerts when a church comes across a scam.

If you'd like to sign up: http://www.montgomerysheriff.com/Default.asp?ID=555&pg=Business+%26+Church+Watch

 

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