Susan Addison, Australia Yearly Meeting.
Friends in Australia were this week targeted by a sophisticated scam operation. It is believed that the callers used names and phone numbers readily available from the Australia Yearly Meeting and Britain Yearly Meeting websites to approach Friends for money and to cite the names of other Friends who could vouch for their bona fides. At least one Australian Friend responded to the caller’s urgent appeal for funds and sent money.
Australia Yearly Meeting Secretary Susan Addison was phoned at the start of office hours on 8 May by a caller purporting to be stranded at an airport in the Philippines. The caller used the name of a person listed on the Britain Yearly Meeting website and claimed to have been given her name by ‘Quackers’ in Britain. The names and phone numbers of several Britain Yearly Meeting employees were provided as people who could vouch for his story.
When told that she would wait to talk first with Britain Yearly Meeting (a 10-hour time difference) the caller left a voice mail message on the AYM office phone in a woman’s voice and sent an email via the AYM website purportedly from one of his referees.
The caller moved on to other names found the Australia Yearly Meeting over the next two days, now citing the Australia Yearly Meeting Secretary Susan Addison as the person who had given him their name as someone who could help.
Prominent ‘Scam alert’ warnings have been placed on the Quakers Australia website and Regional Meeting clerks have been asked to disseminate the warning. Key elements of the story are: family with Quaker connections urgently needs money to attend family funeral; money to be transferred via Western Union to an address in the Philippines. The caller has threatened to contact ‘Quackers’ in other countries.
If in doubt when a request for funds is made, Friends are advised to ask questions beyond the scope of the well rehearsed story to ascertain where the caller is a genuine Friend, or delay responding until they can check with the sources named.