Fool Me Once, Shame On You. Fool Me Ten Times…

, , , , | Legal | April 15, 2021

I am the minister of a city-centre church in the UK. This means that we have a good number of down-and-outs and other needy people come to us, and we rarely turn people away. Unfortunately, this also means that we are often targeted by scammers trying to get money out of us.

Some years ago, we had a rash of men claiming to be oil rig workers from Northern Ireland who needed money to get back home due to an emergency. These were scammers. One even pulled an elaborate scam on a generous couple in the congregation to get over £200 out of them. The tell-tale sign was that not only were the stories similar, but in many cases, they were verbatim the same, as if memorised.

After a morning service, a visitor asked to speak with me. I went into the back of the church with him, and to my horror, he began the whole, “I work on an oil rig, I’m from Northern Ireland…” spiel.

“Let me stop you there,” I said. “You are the tenth man to stand there and tell me the exact same story. Get out, now.”

He left in rather a hurry, and he was not only the tenth but also the last man to stand there and tell me that exact same story. It seemed there was a community of scammers, and once I had told one to get out, nobody else tried it. There are quite enough genuinely needy people in this city to help, without scammers taking the resources of a small church.

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