My pastor was sitting in his office the other day when a call came through to the parish office requesting to speak to him. The call started out friendly, “Hi, my name is Mike Donnelly! My wife, Cathy and I are parishioners. Do you remember us? We come to Mass with our two teenage children.”
Series of Misfortunes
The caller then went on to explain explain that his family had to travel to Chicago as a result of his father-in-law’s sudden illness. “Do you remember me telling you about my wife’s father’s serious illness right before Christmas”, the caller asked. “I have bad news to tell you, my father-in-law just passed away.” After the priest expressed his condolences over the recent death, the caller then went on “Yes, Father, I have even more bad news to tell you.” The caller then went on to explain that his wallet had been stolen by a thief and that now his family was stranded in Chicago without money or a way to get home.
The caller then went on to explain that all he needed was for the pastor to go to his house to pick up some cash that he had at home and to wire it to him in Chicago. Feeling uneasy about going to a home that wasn’t his own, the priest asked that the caller phone the police to provide the priest with an escort to the house. “Oh no, Father! I’ve already tried the police and they won’t help me. What about if you “lend” me the money and I will pay you back when I return home?”
Fortunately, the pastor’s common sense prevailed over his strong desire to help the stranded parishioner. The details of the tale of misfortune didn’t make sense: why did the wife have her own wallet to help the family home. A search of the parish rolls revealed that no parishioner by the name of Mike and Cathy Donnelly existed. When the priest informed the caller that he wouldn’t be able to help him without the police being notified, the caller cheerily rang off saying, “That’s okay, father! I’ll see you when I get back”.
The Many Lives of the Scam
My pastor was not alone in receiving such a call. This scam has been perpetuated among many different churches around the United States. The specifics of the tale change but the modus operandi is always the same. The caller first establishes a rapport with the pastor, claming to be a parishioner of the church. He then spins a tale of woe about some event that has gone wrong. A review of the logs of one gay church showed that the caller is always struck with AIDS. Lastly, the caller pleads for the pastor to help him out financially in order to get the stranded parishioner home.
About The Author
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of http://TheCatholicGuide.com, a resource for finding about Catholicism, the Faith and Catholic Life.