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A Scam Alert Targeting Religious Worshippers

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Sonora, CA — Sonora Police and the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department  are sounding the alarm regarding a scam hitting the area aimed at religious worshippers.

Both of their dispatches have been inundated with calls detailing a phone scam where the thieves threaten the person will “go to hell if you don’t belong to my (their) church.” Law enforcement officials indicate that the calls are coming from a southern California area code. They give this number 1-661-552-0555 to watch out for or block if it comes up on a phone. Authorities instruct that the con artists demand that the person pays $100 to join the church and another $100 per month after that to “follow Christ the right way.”

Citing that these church scams cost victims millions of dollars every year, law enforcement has provided these tips, which they note can apply to any type of scam:

  • Resist pressure to make a decision immediately.
  • Keep your credit card, checking account, or Social Security numbers to yourself. Don’t tell them to callers you don’t know — even if they ask you to “confirm” this information. That’s a trick.
  • Don’t pay for something just because you’ll get a “free gift.”
  • Get all information in writing before you agree to buy.
  • Check out a charity before you give. Ask how much of your donation actually goes to the charity. Ask the caller to send you written information so you can make an informed decision without being pressured, rushed, or quilted into it.
  • If the offer is an investment, check with your state securities regulator to see if the offer — and the offeror — are properly registered.
  • Don’t send cash by messenger, overnight mail, or money transfer. If you use cash or a money transfer — rather than a credit card — you may lose your right to dispute fraudulent charges. The money will be gone.
  • Don’t agree to any offer for which you have to pay a “registration” or “shipping” fee to get a prize or a gift.
  • Research offers with your consumer protection agency or state Attorney General’s office before you agree to send money.
  • Beware of offers to “help” you recover money you have already lost. Callers that say they are law enforcement officers who will help you get your money back “for a fee” are scammers.
  • Report any caller who is rude or abusive, even if you already sent them money. They’ll want more. Call 1-877-FTC-HELP or click here.