The God Squad: Even pious eyes can spot a scam

October 11, 2013|By Rabbi Marc Gellman

Q: I'm writing this with tears in my eyes.

My family and I came to Manila, in the Philippines, for a short vacation. Unfortunately, we got mugged in the park of the hotel where we stayed. All our cash, credit cards and cell phones were stolen, but luckily we still had our lives and passports.

We've been to the embassy and the police here, but they're not helping at all. Our return flight leaves a few hours from now, but we're having problems settling the hotel bill, and the manager insists we do so before we leave. I'm freaked out and I need your urgent help! Can you please send $1,850? — W., via


A: Shame on you! You're praying on the good will of people who are religious and, therefore, whom you presume to be easy marks for your criminal enterprise. You can send out thousands of these phony e-mails, and if you get just one gullible response, you've successfully stolen their money.

Your e-mail is obviously a scam because it doesn't include any verifying information but absolutely includes the amount of money you want me to send you. I try to do good things, but I also try not to do stupid things, and sending you money would be a massively stupid thing to do.

You should also know the damage your scam does to legitimate charities and people in real need. You create a level of cynicism that makes the work of legitimate charities much harder. Shame on you!

I would continue this rant, but someone just stole my car. Please send me $15,000 right away so I can replace it. I'm freaked out and I need your urgent help!


(Here's another email that arrives in multiple forms every month. This one is legitimate, but tiresome. Dentists don't have to defend dentistry every month so why do I?)

Q: Lately, the problems of the world seems to rest on the fact that there are too many religions. I can just hear God yelling down to us, "You have it all wrong! This is not what I wanted! Arabs (Muslims) fighting Jews, Protestants fighting Catholics worldwide, Muslims fighting Christians and everyone else who is not Muslim."

We'll never have peace in the world, and that's the way it's going to be forever. And when the Earth gets too close to the sun, we'll become another Mars, orbiting the sun. We just don't know what God really has in store for us. No one knows. — J., Howard Beach, NY, via

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