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Residents warned of pay-for-prayer calls

December 17, 2018

CHARLESTON — Consumers are being reminded to exercise caution when receiving unsolicited pay-for-prayer calls.

Those choosing to solicit consumers in such a manner have been known to utilize robocalls, websites and unsolicited email to exploit the consumer’s desire for prayer, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a news release. The process typically involves a donation in exchange for prayer.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division recently learned of the calls circulating once again in West Virginia. The caller portrays him or herself as representing the “St. Mary’s Prayer Center Ministry,” an entity having no known connection to the similarly named city of St. Marys in Pleasants County, St. Mary’s Medical Center located in Huntington or other entities elsewhere in West Virginia.

“Consumers must exercise caution with any unsolicited call,” Morrisey said. “No matter the service or product, consumers should never provide payment or personal information to a stranger without verifying the legitimacy of the represented entity.”

The Attorney General suggests consumers follow these general tips when faced with unsolicited telephone calls, emails and other communications:

• Do not answer an unrecognized number. Spoofing technology allows callers to misrepresent their true location by calling from what appears to be a local or in-state number.

• Never give away financial or personal information without verifying the recipient.

• Verify the legitimacy of a charity or organization by reviewing the Secretary of State’s website to see if it is registered to solicit donations in West Virginia. Other research can be found on websites such as www.charitynavigator.org or www.guidestar.org.

• Contact the legitimate agency to verify its existence and double check that it is soliciting the desired information and/or donations.

Consumers with questions can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.

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