A troubling scam originating in America has demonstrated that more should be done to help the sick, elderly and lonely amongst us.
This heartbreaking scam targeted vulnerable people with a “pay for prayer” scheme, claiming that $35 would earn special prayers from religious leaders and spiritual groups.
Under the leadership of fraudulent businessman Benjamin Rogovy, the purported Christian Prayer Centre “created fake religious leaders and posted false testimonials in order to attract customers”.
Families with dying children fell for the rouse, as did cancer patients and people with other terminal illnesses. Some victims paid up to $65 for just one prayer.
All told, the Christian Prayer Centre cost 165,000 victims over $9 million. Each prayer went unmade, and in fact there were no religious leaders of any sort taking care of these victims.
Washington’s assistant attorney general said the Christian Prayer Centre took advantage of people’s faith and goodwill. The scam actually extended to other countries globally, going as far as Spain.
“(Victims) were looking for hope anywhere they could get it. One of the places they turned to was the Christian Prayer Center”, explained assistant attorney general Daniel Davies.
“When (people) are going through incredibly difficult situations, often times people turn to prayer”, Davies said.
“They see a website touting that thousands of people will pray for you. They have a pastor, testimonials on the website of people whose prayers were answered”.
“The pastor was a sham”, Davies surmised. “The testimonials were fictitious as well”. This distinction made the pay for prayer scam illegal, as opposed to normal religious fundraising.
Of course, the saddest part of this scam is that people were not only duped – but that they needed support from total strangers initially.
“It’s heartbreaking that families felt so isolated and desperate enough to pay for prayers”, one person commented online.
“We need to band together as communities and support people more in their times of need. Particularly the sick, elderly and dying”.