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Beware of Affinity Fraud in the Church



By David Kowalski

affinity fraudChristians should be aware of the growing phenomenon of affinity fraud, through which Christians are being swindled out of exponentially growing amounts of money each year. Billions are being taken from trusting investors who con artists claim to be closely affiliated with in some way.

Affinity fraud broadly defined is fraudulent activity which targets a specific group who will tend to be more trusting of the con artist who pretends to be a prominent part of the group (and who may even think of himself as part of the group). The most common target of such fraud are Christian churches and denominations.

The more trusted the position the deceiver occupies within the group, the less guarded investors tend to be. “Everyone is looking for a shorthand way to judge character, and affinity settings offer that, at least in theory,” says Jeff Robinson, head of the Utah County Attorney's investigations bureau.

This fraud often takes the form of a Ponzi scheme, which involves an individual or company that promises to invest your money for you (supposedly more profitably than you can for yourself) and send you regular interest payments. The money is never invested, however. The individual or company that takes your money simply keeps it for themselves and pays your scheduled interest payments from funds taken in from new investors. The scheme is destined to collapse at some point and there is no way to retrieve your initial investment once it does. The schemer keeps the scam going for as long as he or she can. If done the right way, it can be maintained for years.

Charles Ponzi

Charles Ponzi

It is sadly all too common for Christian investment programs to be fraudulent. Most experts counsel especially close examination of any investment scheme that targets a specific group. On their website, the Securities and Exchange Commission provides guidelines on how to avoid affinity fraud

The issue has become so problematic that I advise one to begin with a skeptical mind set and use the most extreme caution regarding any investment opportunity that especially targets the Christian community, no matter how good it sounds and no matter how revered the promoter of the investment is. Even pastors have been found guilty of this crime and innocent pastors are often manipulated by con artists as part of the scheme.

The Religion News Blog has a wealth of information on this topic. Just go to http://www.religionnewsblog.com/ and search on the site for "affinity fraud." I have selected a few of the articles from their large collection and provided links below. Even if one does not read them all, I recommend making a file or finding a place within an existing file to save these links and the others attached to or within this post.

This problem is only getting worse with time and every Christian should be sufficiently aware of the problem to be guarded about investment schemes that target Christians. Affinity fraud is also becoming increasingly common in social media such as Facebook and Google+. If you suspect something is wrong on Google+ or Facebook, it may help others if you report it to them and let them look into the matter.
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Below are some links (that you may want to at least save) to some articles on this matter.

http://www.religionnewsblog.com/15614/religion-related-fraud-getting-worse

http://www.religionnewsblog.com/13438/on-eve-of-fraud-trial-christian-investors-say-they-were-betrayed

http://www.religionnewsblog.com/26444/edward-purvis-admits-huge-ponzi-scam-that-targeted-christians

http://www.religionnewsblog.com/9079/convicted-in-religion-based-investment-scam

http://www.religionnewsblog.com/2118/religion-based-scams-take-lords-name-in-gain

http://www.religionnewsblog.com/9911/preying-through-the-pulpit

http://www.religionnewsblog.com/9079/convicted-in-religion-based-investment-scam

http://www.religionnewsblog.com/11265/pastor-pleads-guilty-to-fraud

http://www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/affinity.htm

http://www.economist.com/node/21543526

© Copyright 2013, David Kowalski. All rights reserved. Links to this post are encouraged. Do not repost or republish without permission.

Written by David Kowalski

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This post was last updated: Jul. 29, 2013