Churches warned of lies for cash

2017-08-01 06:00
Avril Steyn, secretary of St Saviour Church in Claremont, warns members of the public about scam artists who target churches. PHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

Avril Steyn, secretary of St Saviour Church in Claremont, warns members of the public about scam artists who target churches. PHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

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The leaders of St Saviour Church in Claremont are warning members of the public about an ongoing scam in which churches are being conned out of cash.

This follows a scam in which a woman, between the ages of 25 and 30, came to the church earlier this month and pretend to be mourning her mother and requested help with funeral arrangements.

According to the secretary of the church, Avril Steyn, the woman could not give valid information about her mother’s death.

“The information she gave us was not adding up. She met the priest first and she explained her problem and he gave her some money. He told her to come back the following day but she did not.

“She came on a Tuesday crying, telling me she had been robbed and needed money urgently but I did not trust her. I did some background checking and she was jumpy and would stop me from contacting the people, saying they would get angry with her.

“I told her to go and I would call her to come and collect the money. I then checked on Facebook and saw one of her friends’ posts, asking her how she could go around scamming people for money to bury her mother knowing she had buried her mother a year ago.”

Steyn phoned the woman to ask about the post and said she would report her, but could not get an answer from the woman.

“She then sent a text message, saying: ‘Please, Aunty Avril, do not do that I have a baby to look after.’

“We then sent a warning about her to other churches and we were shocked to find out she has been to other churches. We want to warn people to be more careful when approached for help.”

She says the priest had given the woman R250 at their first encounter. Steyn gave her bus fare to Cape Town.

Steyn says churches run programmes to help needy people with the aim of giving back but “people like this woman make things difficult”. She says the church leaders are considering not giving cash but rather handing out food parcels, vouchers and clothing.

Secretary of St Paul, Marilyn Fredricks, says the woman came to the church on Thursday 13 July and told them the same story of her mother’s death. But they refused to give her money right there and told her they would discuss it and she should return the following day, which she never did.

Steyn says it is difficult to spot scam artists because they try to look genuine. She says the scam has been going on for a while but at their church they have become more careful.

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