Churches warned to watch for scam

Published 03/01 2013 06:27PM

Updated 03/01 2013 06:31PM

CHAMPAIGN -- Police are warning churches to be on high-alert. Officers say they've had reports of a man targeting churches as part of a scam. WCIA-3's Jessica Shaw finds out how it works.

Church members think they're doing a good deed, but really, the scammer is taking advantage of their good graces. It's got one church changing how it helps. Pastor Ron Strack knows times are tough.

"At least one, oftentimes more than one for either help with rent, utilities."

Meadowbrook Church can help with things like food. But money? That goes to non-profits.

"So, we can refer them. They're about to be assisted in ways they're better situated and set up to do that."

It's an idea police support because a few weeks ago, an area church was scammed. The congregation told police this man, Alan Farah, has stopped by needing help to bury his parents overseas. Members gave him several hundred dollars.

"Some of the congregation did some investigating of their own that suggests maybe this person might not be totally honest."

An internet search found the same man, same scam, at different churches across several states.

While groups like Meadowbrook say they'll keep helping, "We want to err on the side of grace as best we can. That's important because there are just a lot of hurting people out there," they'll be keeping a closer look out.

Police are not suggesting people don't donate, but they warn to be cautious.

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