CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning consumers not to fall for unsolicited ‘pay-for-prayer’ calls this holiday season.

Currently, a call is going around the state where a caller portrays him or herself as a representative of the “St. Mary’s Prayer Center Ministry,” an entity having no known connections to any other town or institution in the entire state.

The scam involves use of robocalls, websites, and unsolicited e-mails to exploit a person’s desire for prayer — involving a ‘donation’ in exchange for prayer.

“Consumers must exercise caution with any unsolicited call,” Morrisey said in a release Thursday. “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 AG’s office recommends residents:

  • Avoid answering unrecognized numbers, citing spoofing technology that allows callers to misrepresent their true location by calling from what appears to be a local or in-state number
  • Not giving away financial or personal information without verifying the recipient
  • Verifying the legitimacy of a charity or oganization by reviewing the Secretary of State’s website to see if it is registered to solicit donations in West Virginia
  • Checking Charity Navigator or Guide Star for further confirmation
  • Contacting the agency to verify its existence and double checking that it is soliciting the desired information and/or donations

Additional questions should be called in to 1-800-368-8808 for the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.