Thieves are picking the pockets of vulnerable African-American churchgoers through a scheme that claims the government has a program to help manage bill payments, reports the Jackson, Mississippi Clarion-Ledger.

Federal Trade Commission attorney Sana Chriss said the agency received reports that people are approaching some Black church communities about the fake program.

“And, because it comes up in church, the scam might seem like it could be legit,” Chriss stated. “But take it from me — and the FTC: There is no federal program that pays your monthly bills in exchange for payment of any kind.”

The crooks collect information about creditors and account numbers. They also ask for bank account information for bill payment transfers, with the promise that the government would help them manage their debts. What should be a red flag is that the con artists ask for an up-front processing fee.

Many of the victims reported seeing scheduled payments in their bank account. However, the scammers redirect the payments before they reach the creditor. In addition to having their money stolen, the victims often accumulate late fees and get their identity stolen.

Chriss said there are legitimate government programs to help the elderly or disabled with financial hardships manage their monthly expenses, as well as resources including credit counseling. Legitimate government programs do not require a fee, Chriss stated.

SOURCE: Clarion-Ledger, Federal Trade Commission

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