MODERATOR of the Presbyterian Church the Rev Joy Abdul-Mohan is warning business owners to be aware of fraudsters claiming to represent the church in order to defraud them.
The warning comes after a businessman from Port of Spain was conned out of $88,200 worth of laptops by fraudsters who claimed they were buying them on behalf of the Presbyterian Church and schools for online education.
Through the Board of Social Responsibility, the church has been providing devices for children in need, at both primary and secondary school level, since online classes began because of the covid19 pandemic.
The conmen left with 14 laptops after paying with fraudulent cheques.
The businessman gave the Port of Spain Fraud Squad CCTV footage of the two men, who pretended they were acting on behalf of the Debe and Felicity Presbyterian schools.
Abdul-Mohan said the crime was reportedly committed on November 5, but the church only learnt about it on November 9, when the businessman came to the church to report that the cheques he had been given had bounced.
The man, who comes from a Presbyterian family, told Abdul-Mohan and the Presbyterian Synod that he was happy to help the church, and so he handed over the 14 laptops and accepted the cheques, unaware they were fake until he went to deposit them.
Abdul-Mohan said she was sorry for the loss the businessman incurred.
She distanced herself, the church, the Board of Social Responsibility, the Synod and Presbyterian schools from this act. She said the schools for which the fraudulent purchases were allegedly made had no chequing accounts.
She appealed to individuals, organisations, churches and schools engaged in outreach programmes to help children with online education to beware of the fraudsters, and warned merchants of the need to verify cheques for large sums with banks.She denounced the fraud.
“When persons deliberately use situations of need to defraud others who are trying to make ends meet by providing services to children who need assistance with online education, it’s selfish, evil, appalling and a crime...that persons would use the needs of vulnerable children for lucrative means and for their own selfish desires.
“We need to recapture basic values of honesty and integrity and most of all humanity.”