Table of contents
Table of contents
Whether you follow a religion or not, it’s annoying to receive unsolicited calls or texts asking you to make a donation to a religious organization.
And although some religious robocalls come from legitimate organizations, many others are scammers posing as religious leaders or people with some kind of faith affiliation. They use harassment tactics to defraud innocent people over the phone.
Scammers know that victims often feel awkward saying they don’t want to donate and can feel pressured to “do the right thing,” so fraudsters take advantage to siphon money from well-meaning people.
Sadly, these kinds of phone scams aren’t new, and our research suggests that these malicious tactics will continue to rise:
While all robocall scams and unwanted text messages are maddening, religious scams are particularly sinister because they manipulate people’s emotions and prey on their beliefs.
Don’t let scammers turn your faith against you and con you into giving money to a fake cause. Here, we’ll help you identify the different types of religious robocall and text scams, understand what protections the law has against them, and offer the best tools for stopping them.
A religious robocall or text scam is when a person masquerades as a religious figure or entity and tries to extract money or personal information from you.
There are a few different types of religious scams, but all have the same goal: to extort you.
One example of a religious robocall scam is a pay-to-pray scam perpetrated by Hope and Prayer Center Ministry in 2019, in which a pre-recorded message stated that the organization was calling to offer “urgent prayer.” Callers who pressed one to receive prayer would receive a second automated call asking for a donation to the ministry that forwarded to a service in charge of collecting payment.
Here’s what religious scam calls might sound like:
Religious text scams, meanwhile, employ similar tactics, just in the form of unwanted text messages.
One example is a scam that targeted faith-based communities in different parts of the country in 2020. Local churchgoers were receiving texts from someone claiming to be their pastor and asking for assistance in purchasing gift cards that would be used toward funds for someone in need, like a cancer patient.
Recipients of the spam text messages would be asked to send photos of the gift card so the “pastor” could use the funds for the patient. Then the scammers would take the money and run.
Here’s what religious scam texts might look like:
Let’s go over some of the most common types of religious phone scams to watch out for.
An imposter scam is a common type of religious phone scam. This is where someone impersonates a person you trust — such as a pastor, rabbi, priest, or imam — usually even spoofing your area code so that it looks like the call or text is local, or spoofing the number of the organization they claim to represent.
They’ll try to convince you to make a “donation” with your credit card to a place of worship or toward a cause, or they’ll ask you to buy a gift card for someone in need, then ask for the gift card number and PIN on the back of the card.
Another form of a deceptive religious scam is a “pay-to-pray scam,” which misleads unsuspecting people into paying for prayers.
One of the most widespread examples of a pay-to-pray scam has its roots around 2013: A televangelist calling himself “Prophet Manasseh” engaged in a relentless robocall scam in which he appealed for people to donate a “victory” or “releasing seed” to receive financial rewards from God.
Because of his incessant calling, Yakim Manasseh Jordan has been sued some 20 times in federal court by plaintiffs across the U.S. for violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). One plaintiff accused Jordan of calling him 300 times.
Thank-You Message Scams
Thank-you message scams are pernicious because they are thanking you for making a donation, preying on your kindness and lowering your guard to make you think you’ve already been in contact with the organization.
If you engage with the thank-you message, the scammer will then employ a tactic to get financial information from you. This may be offering you some kind of reward that they’ll say can be sent to your bank account if you provide the number, or soliciting “another” donation by way of gift card or wire transfer — both of which are extremely difficult to trace.
As with many religious scams, the call or text will likely come from a spoofed number to look like it’s from your local area code, and the scammer will probably use a name similar to that of a real religious or charity organization.
Read more: How to stop spam text messages
Any attempt by scammers to steal from you or solicit donations using false claims is illegal.
Legally, fundraisers are allowed to call you on behalf of charities, even if your telephone number is listed on the National Do Not Call Registry. When these charitable fundraisers call you, they must follow the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), which includes stipulations like:
Because scammers operate outside the law, they rarely follow these rules.
Unfortunately, scammers will go to great lengths to convince you they’re from a legitimate organization, making it difficult to distinguish between religious scams and honest fundraisers.
As a rule, it’s smart to be wary of anyone saying they’re a religious leader or requesting donations for a place of worship. Really, it’s wise to be suspicious of anyone requesting money from you via call or text until you can do further research.
Caller ID spoofing can make it difficult to weed out scammers from legal callers. You can’t just look at the phone number — scammers have access to technology that allows them to fake the number they’re calling from.
To pick out religious text and robocall scams, here are 5 warning signs to look for:
If you’re feeling giving and want to make a donation to a religious organization, never respond to religious robocalls or texts. Go directly to your organization of choice, whether via their website or verified phone number listed in the organization’s materials.
The most effective method to put an end to religious scams is to use a robocall and spam text blocker.
The FTC recommends third-party robocall blocker apps like Robokiller, which use call data or reports from users, the FTC, and other sources to predict which calls are illegal or likely scams, then intercepts those calls before they ever reach you. Robokiller offers a 90% reduction in spam calls within 30 days.
Robokiller is the best robocall blocker on the market not only because it’s 99% effective at preventing spam calls and texts before they ever reach you but also because it’s empowering users to take control into their own hands.
Aside from utilizing a robocall blocker, there are a few actions you can take to mitigate the influx of religious robocall and text scams:
If you want to eradicate robocalls entirely, blocking suspicious numbers one by one is a hopeless endeavor, and scammers will just keep trying with new numbers and aliases.
Robocall blocker Robokiller is your first line of defense against religious scams and unwanted text messages.
No one deserves to be harassed by scammers. Robokiller helps you take back control of your privacy (and sanity) using A.I. and machine learning.
Spam calls are blocked automatically. Instead of just using consumer feedback or caller ID, Robokiller identifies the caller or texter behind the message by leveraging a global database of more than 300 million unique scammer phone numbers. Untrustworthy numbers are added to a Global Blacklist of spam numbers, which is updated daily.
To identify spam texts, Robokiller analyzes the metadata to look for common characteristics of spam texts, anonymizing and removing identifiable information like your name and number, Numbers are cross-referenced against a database of untrustworthy texters to monitor for illegal activity, and if the app determines it’s spam, it blocks it.
Don’t let scammers tie you up in their schemes and take advantage of your generous nature. Put them out of business, protect your finances, and enjoy some peace of mind with Robokiller.