Beware these sob-stories

By Pat Ashworth, Church Times

BOGUS STUDENTS in Uganda are using Crockford’s Clerical Directory to find the addresses of clergy to whom to send begging letters for help with school fees, a former CMS mission partner warned this week.

Dr Tudor Griffiths, now diocesan missioner for Monmouth, recently returned from a visit to Uganda, where he made enquiries after a number of clergy had contacted him after receiving letters.

The scam is similar to an earlier one in which fraudsters used Who?s Who to identify potential donors. The practice was exposed last year by the Ugandan newspaper, New Vision.

The paper reported that people were posing as Christian orphans whose parents had been murdered by rebels. Opening paragraphs typically began: “I greet you and family in the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ. I thank God for your name/address and now I hope you will share the little you have with me.”

Another tactic was to use the headed notepaper of non-existent schools.

Dr Griffiths advised on Tuesday that worthy organisations provided many opportunities to support projects and people in Uganda, and these letters should not be regarded as such opportunities.

“Ignore them. I can’t honestly think that there’s any real justification for writing to someone out of the blue with a hard-luck story,” he said.

The letters probably did not sound authentic to anyone who had lived and worked in Uganda, but could appeal to someone with a kind heart who did not realise how unscrupulous people could be.

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