“Affinity fraud, a type of investment fraud that preys upon members of identifiable groups, is an epidemic that is spreading throughout America’s churches.
Pat Huddleston, former enforcement branch chief for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), points out that “there is an element of the pitch to a Christian that isn’t present in other pitches by scam artists, and that is the proposed shared faith between the person pitching the investment and the eventual victim.”
Of the $40 billion Americans lose to investment fraud every year, Huddleston reports that $1 billion involves fraud against the faithful. He believes megachurches are “especially vulnerable” because of their size and the number of ministries they may offer.
“Typically what happens is the scam artist will join the church [and] serve for a while,” the investor fraud expert explains. “The people who encounter them will be convinced that they are humble servants of Christ, and thereby, they gain the trust of the people they come in contact with.”
Next comes the scam artist’s subtle pitch that may include a casual conversation about what he or she does for a living, which is usually when he or she mentions that a contribution to the church was made possible through an investment. So Huddleston advises people to stay away from any investment pitch, even one that is made through a subtle appeal to a believer’s faith.”
Chris Woodward – OneNewsNow – 4/20/2011 3:50:00 AM