Online donation scams of false priests and Christians thrive in internet boom
There are priests and lay people who collect funds online and give transparent account of the projects, receipts and expenditure. But there are also many who steal the digital identity of priests and nuns to raise money, telling of illnesses, problems or the desire to study abroad. The story of Mr. Jing. Among the easiest victims: rich and middle-aged women. The Church needs to be careful and cautious.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - With the exponential growth of Internet use in China, on-line charities have grown as have cases of online donation scams.
According to the World Bank, this year, at least 721 million Chinese (52.2%) will use the internet. Even the on-line donations are widespread, replacing ordinary means of charity. So, every day new groups appear online seeking donations and many claiming to do so on behalf of the Church.
They use QQ, Weixin and other platforms geared to raising funds. Some donation campaigns have been launched by priests for specific projects such as building a church, or helping a group of poor. These sites are often managed by nuns or priests, although the manager is usually a layman (expert) who collects the "red envelopes" (donations), giving a transparent account at the conclusion of the campaign, with photos and receipts as proof.
A large number of sites with fundraisers are organized by lay people or charitable organizations. Given the ease of online transfers and the opportunity to donate any amount, however small, donors do not care how their offerings are used. There is no control system and this leaves room for scams and fraud. The result is that cases of scams are growing hand in hand with the internet.
In general there are three types of scammers.
Priests thirsty for money
The first group consists of a small percentage of priests who love money so much they search for it on the Internet. It must be said that they do so almost privately, passing a long time online, getting to know many people, especially wealthy middle-aged women.
Every so often, these priests ask for money from these ladies who feel very protective towards these online priests. They cite poor health, their need for study abroad, etc…to justify their demands. And because these middle-aged women are very well-off and take care of the priests, the fraudsters are able to get what they want. For example, two ladies who were in this situation, turned to me and I told them that the diocese provides for priests and is responsible when they are sick. Therefore there is no need for them to intervene.
As for studies abroad, as far as I know, every priest, nuns or seminarian who goes abroad to study, is covered by a scholarship, to the extent that they also have the bishop's approval.
As for fundraising in a diocese - for example, to build a church - the local bishop must first verify the project in a written form before he can affix his signature and his seal.
A second group comprises those who delight in stealing the digital identity (ID) of many pastors and priests, seeking donations with any excuse. Of course, they have to be very clever, otherwise the donors realize immediately that there is something unusual and begin to suspect that there is something rotten. In doing so they then call the real priest to have insurance and almost everyone hears the answer: "I do not know what you're talking!", Or "Is there really such a thing?"
For this reason, the cunning of this group continue to change ID to avoid being caught and continue to do what they do. And since the internet is full of gullible people, they manage to succeed in getting with it.
A typical example of this group is a Mr. Jing. It should be said at once that I am not damaging his reputation, but he himself is damaging it because he leaves behind many traces of his actions, much to be discovered. A priest of the Diocese of Dali, which recently found out that Mr. Jing is using his name to seek donations, commented: "Jing has a bad reputation in my diocese as a scammer ... not only for money but deceiving women to have sex with them."
Mr. Jing began in 2014 to demand money and deals in many QQ groups, using every possible excuse, such as disease, and many of these groups believed him, and gave him money. Soon people became aware that they had been deceived. As I was responsible for some of these groups, once I was aware of the situation, I warned him to stop. I thought he would stop, and instead, surprisingly, he has started again!
Having informed many faith groups on QQ, only few of them have made donations to Jing. Gradually they all found out his real intentions and they stopped giving him money. So Jing left the QQ groups and turned to Weixin!
In 2015 he began using Weixin to raise money. I found this out: one day, I realized that my friend, the Anglican pastor Fan, had suddenly started to ask for money and donations in a very compelling way. Because I know him very well, I wondered what happened to him. I called him and he was surprised. In fact it was a scam. And who was behind all this? Mr. Jing!
Pastor Fan immediately warned his Weixin circle. But since then, Jing has used the identities of many priests to ask for money right and left. Although there are some volunteers who are trying to track him down, it seems that Jing knows a lot of priests and how they exploit the trust of people towards them. With a rough calculation, it seems that so far he has collected between 800 thousand and one million yuan [between 110 thousand and the 243 thousand euro - Ed]: which means that he has violated the law.
We then decided to report him. Which he did not like and he became furious: not only has he attacked us verbally, he has also threatened reprisals. Meanwhile, I have collected a lot of evidence about him: telephone conversations; videos of some of his conversations with people via the internet; documentation of bank transfers that people have made to him. I did not hand this material to the police because I still considered him a brother who needs to change his life. But press then picked up a story of a man who collected money for a non-existent church in Shanghai. Some became suspicious and reported him to the police who arrested him, they sent him to trial and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The third group are experts who employ subtleties. Usually they present themselves to others and share something deep about themselves to win over people’s trust and even their admiration. Later, with great care and caution they choose some rich and good-hearted women. They try to gain their sympathy by telling of their problems and their pain. So, very often these women open their wallets with eyes full of tears. Subsequently, these experts deny that such a thing ever happened. Donors who feel cheated can not prove anything because the expert was able to do everything with great subtly and in private.
Apparently, in today's world, people lack the basic criteria needed to assess the true and the false, and some people tend to believe everything they read on the Internet.
On the other hand, seeking donations via the Internet is a more direct and convenient method, although it is open to a crisis of confidence. This field requires regulation for all the parties involved.
The Church needs to be more conscious and more cautious on this point, otherwise it is likely to do a lot of damage and invalidate the proclamation of the Gospel.
It must be said that September 1, the government passed a law on charitable organizations. Article 33 says: "It is forbidden for any organization or individual to use in lies the name of a charitable organization, or to pretend to be such; to conduct charitable activities or obtain funds by fraud ".