The Hope and Prayer Center Ministry Robocall is Making a Comeback
Of all the robocalls we cover here at Spam Fighter, we consider the Hope and Prayer Center Ministry robocall to be among the worst. Maybe it’s because it preys on people’s emotions, or their religious inclinations, or maybe it’s just because it seems to take advantage of people far too often.
What Is the Hope and Prayer Center Ministry Robocall
This particular robocall operates slightly different from the rest and starts off innocent enough:
“Hello. This is St. Mary’s Prayer Center Ministry calling today to see if you need urgent prayer. If you would like to have someone from our center pray for you, please press 1. If you would no longer like to hear from us, please press 3.”
“This the Hope and Prayer Center Ministry. If you need an urgent prayer and would like to have someone from our prayer center pray for you, please press 1.”
This works for two reasons. One, not many people would say they aren’t in need of prayer (or well-wishes if you aren’t particularly religious) and two, there is very little commitment required on the part of the one being scammed.
Naturally, most people press 1.
A few days later, they will receive another call with a similar message. Only, this time, the message will also include the option of sending a “small monetary donation.” The message doesn’t specify how much, but it will connect the unsuspecting person to a service that will collect the ‘donation.’
And it works.
The Psychology of Salesmanship and Scammers
Thankfully, the era of sleazy used car salesmen aggressively sneaking junk cars into the possession of trusting buyers, is over. For the most part. Unfortunately, the tactics that helped used car salesmen earn their reputations, actually work. And they work for scammers as well as anyone else.
In 1966, Stanford University researchers Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser conducted a number of experiments that prompted them to coin the term “foot-in-the-door technique”, so named after door-to-door salesmen who literally needed to get their foot in the door in order to deliver their pitch.
During their research, Freedman and Fraser designed an experiment that involved two groups of women. The first group received phone calls that asked questions about their use of soap products, and a few days later received a phone call asking them to allow people to search their cabinets for particular products. The second group of women only received the second phone call asking to allow the search for products.
The results showed that the group of women who answered the initial questions (the ‘small ask’) were 31% more likely to allow the second request (the ‘big ask’). Of the second group (who only received the ‘big ask’), only 4% allowed the search request.
Soap and searching aside, there is a substantial body of research that shows people are more likely to agree to a ‘big ask’ if they have already assisted with an initial ‘small ask’ first. In the case of used car salesmen, that ‘small ask’ could be as simple as asking a few unrelated questions, or asking the potential ‘mark’ to pick up an item the salesman ‘dropped’.
So when the unsuspecting caller hits ‘1’ to receive prayers, they’ve just fallen for the ‘small ask’. The ‘big ask’ comes a few days later in the form of the monetary donation.
Is donating to a prayer ministry bad?
Well yes, because it’s a scam.
The Christian Prayer Center Ministry Scam - The Original
Between 2011 and 2015, the Christian Prayer Center Ministry operated a Facebook page and website that was full of glowing reviews from religious leaders and people who claimed to receive the things of their dreams with the help of the prayers received from the Christian Prayer Center. The only problem with this entire operation was that it was entirely fake.
After engaging unsuspecting people, the Ministry enticed people to pay between $9 and $35 for ‘prayers’ that would presumably answer their dreams and desires. Through a confusing process, willing payers would be walked through a process that often resulted in them being charged multiple times or on a repeating schedule.
In 2016, the operator of the scam, Benjamin Rogovy, was ordered to repay $7.75 million collected during the scam.
Despite this apparent victory, the pay-for-prayer scam persisted.
St. Mary’s Prayer Center Ministry - The Reboot
The current contender for pay-for-prayer robocall scams is the St. Mary’s Prayer Center Ministry (also going by the Hope and Prayer Center Ministry) that is reportedly run by the Manasseh Jordan Ministries organization and Prophet Manasseh Jordan.
Much like the Christian Prayer Center Ministry scams, the St. Mary’s Prayer Center scam offers prayers in exchange for cash. Only St. Mary’s took the scam one step further by employing robocalls with Dallas area codes and hitting listeners with the ‘small ask’ first. Unlike the 1966 research, however, many people received dozens, if not hundreds, or calls asking for ‘donations’.
Many consumers received so many calls that numerous federal lawsuits were filed against Manasseh Jordan Ministries, along with a few class-action lawsuits for the same scam. Unfortunately, many of the suits were settled out of court and subsequently sealed.
Amazingly, the calls continue.
Staying One Step Ahead of the Scammers
Sleazy salesmen and phone scammers alike know how to trick their marks with fancy techniques, so the best line of defense against them is knowledge.
Fortunately for us, there are mobile apps that tap into massive pools of data to equip everyday people with information about who is behind these unknown calls and whether it’s likely to be a scam. Apps like Spam Fighter combine scammer data and spam algorithms to identify spammers before you even answer a call, so you can have some peace of mind when getting unwanted calls.