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Computer scam targets black Baptist churchescomment (0)

July 16, 2009


WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning churches about con artists who are embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from black congregations through an alleged computer equipment scam. The scammers primarily target Baptist churches by signing them into a lease for “free” computer kiosks. Churches are expected to make payments to cover the equipment costs until they are reimbursed by “sponsors,” who are nonexistent. The scammers then allegedly drain the church bank accounts using the account information from a check.

“Often targeting African-American churches, these scammers may profess a shared faith, culture or concern for the community to gain the trust of the church staff,” according to the consumer alert by the nation’s consumer protection agency.

The FTC report, issued June 19, stems from a lawsuit filed in March by the District of Columbia attorney general against the alleged perpetrators for defrauding 30 churches in the district and hundreds more in 20 other states. The consumer alert urges churches to extensively evaluate contracts, research organizations before doing business with them and never wire money, which can expose bank accounts. “The FTC’s consumer alerts typically deal with consumer concerns, rather than with faith-based concerns per se,” wrote Elizabeth Lordan, an FTC spokeswoman, in an e-mail.

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