Unfortunately scam phone calls and emails are not unusual, but several scams lately are specifically targeting United Methodists.
There are at least three such scams that we are aware of:
One scam has been reported by United Methodist pastors across the denomination. A person claiming to be a United Methodist bishop (Bishop Bledsoe, Bishop King and Bishop Holston's names have been used) calls to say that his daughter, niece, or friend has broken down in your town. He needs your help getting them a prepaid credit card to get back on the road. At least one North Georgia pastor has gotten this call. Please note that no Conference or bishop will ever call your church in an emergency and ask you to send a prepaid credit card. Please alert your local authorities and report the call to the Conference Bishop's Office as well.
Another scam is local to North Georgia and has been reported in at least two districts. A person calls a church and asks to speak to the pastor about an AIDS patient who has fallen on hard times or has been evicted. He mentions foundations and organizations that are not real. He asks for money and offers to come to the church to pick up the check.
A third scam we're aware of comes from a false World Methodist Council email address and asks for your bank card number. The World Methodist Council does not request money by phone or email. You will always receive a letter on official letterhead when it comes to matters of money. Any email correspondence from the Council headquarters will arrive from an "@worldmethodistcouncil.org" email address.
Not all scams are as easy to see through as the "Prince of a foreign land needs to wire money" or "You just won the European Lottery" but are instead very convincing. UM pastor Rev. Adam Hamilton was impersonated on Facebook earlier this year by someone who recreated his page almost exactly, but asked for money for non-existent mission projects.
It is important to be thorough in your research, to make donations on your terms through reputable methods, and to be wary of all solicitations.
CharityNavigator.org posts this advice on avoiding becoming the victim of an online scam: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=313.
Conference Communications Office