Warning over religious letters

CHURCH bosses have issued a warning over religious letters promising "powerful prophecies" in exchange for cash.

Norma Sanders, 70, from South Shields, has had a number of mailshots in the last few weeks from Brother Peter Popoff, whose ministry is based in America.

One included a square of blue cloth, described in the letter as a "New Testament anointed prophet's shirt piece", and promised access to 14 prophecies.

Another was seven-pages long and included a "very powerful circle of divine blessing", promising "several very clear visions about your past, present and future".

Both asked for the items to be returned to a London PO Box address with an amount of money ranging from 20 to more than 107 – or "whatever you feel".

Mrs Sanders: "There are vulnerable people out there who may think this is the answer to all their problems.

"I don't want anyone to be duped by reading that."

Trading Standards officers at South Tyneside Council are probing the letters from California-based Brother Popoff, who claims to be a faith healer.

He also claims to receive divine revelations about people who attend his services, as well as those whom he contacts via mass mailings.

In 1986, he was left bankrupt after an expos on his methods by an American journalist, but more than 20 years later, he has developed a faithful new following.

But Bernadette Askins, chairman of Churches Together in South Tyneside, said a bona fide religious organisation would not approach people in this way.

She said: "I would treat this with extreme caution and not send any money.

"I can understand people feeling under pressure and being very anxious about such appeals, but many of them are really a confidence trick.

"We would strongly advise that people just take no action. If in doubt, talk to your minister or priest."

Coun Joanne Bell, lead member for safer and stronger communities, said: "We would advise our residents to be cautious about sending money to any individual or organisation they do not know.

"In the present economic climate, we are seeing more and more unsolicited letters and e-mails from bogus psychics, fake lotteries and individuals claiming to want to move money from THIRD WORLD countries.

"Sadly, these kinds of letters and e-mails can prey on vulnerable adults in South Tyneside and they all share a common goal – to part

people from their hard-earned cash."

Anyone who has received a similar letter and would like to talk to Trading Standards can contact Consumer Direct on (08454) 04 05 06.