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Con artists are hawking what they claim is a golden opportunity for churches: Free equipment or services. Often targeting African American churches, these scammers may profess a shared faith, culture, or concern for the community to gain the trust of the church staff.

In a common scheme, scammers may offer computer equipment to the staff of a church, claiming the cost will be covered by a “sponsor,” who later turns out to be phony. In the meantime, the staff simply has to sign an agreement to lease the equipment, make a regular payment, and deposit checks from the “sponsor” to cover the checks written by the church. While this is going on, the scammers can gain access to the church’s bank accounts and withdraw funds.

The FTC has issued a new consumer alert to help consumers steer clear of this scam. To learn more, go to

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

(FYI churches)

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