Affinity fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States, and unfortunately it can be one of the hardest to stop. Although it is often called church fraud, affinity fraud can occur within any group of closely related people. Most often, however, scam artists use the pre-built social networks of a church to lend themselves financial integrity and gain the trust of hundreds or thousands of people.
Few clergy need to be told about the danger that fraud in the Church can bring to themselves or their congregation, but there isn’t a lot of information about fraud detection and fraud prevention. This leaves congregation particularly vulnerable to fraud in the Church.
Fraud Prevention for Churches
Fortunately, there are things you can do to protect your church. Start by being aware of new members. While some instances of church fraud come from established members, the majority of cases begin when a new member joins the church. This member typically ingratiates him or herself very quickly; joining classes, activities, and volunteering. In many cases they will also make large financial donations, and present themselves as being wealthy. Because all of these behaviors are viewed favorably by the group, it is not uncommon for the scam artist to build trust very quickly.
While it’s not reasonable to expect everyone in a church to treat a new member with suspicion, it is important to treat any business deals he or she offers with a great deal of caution. In the event that a person does start to pitch a business idea, it is critical for members of the church, especially its leadership, to view the proposal very critically.
Good Fraud Protection Policies to Avoid Vulnerability
Ideally, a church should not make any recommendation about the financial integrity of one of its members to its parishioners. Of course, this is a lot easier to say than to practice, as many parishioners look to their clergy for advice on all aspects of their lives. One of the basic practices of fraud prevention, however, is to have a church-wide policy of not endorsing any business. Explain that a church is not a fraud detection agency, and that there is simply no one on staff who can evaluate a business. This will stop the pressure put on by many scam artists to get a public audience with a church endorsement. It’s worth it to note that many scam artists will try to put pressure on board members and staff, and in some cases make threats that they will not donate their time or money if they do not get what they want. Remember that these are classic signs of a scam artists, and do not allow yourself or board members to be intimidated.
Set Up Fraud Protection with Weeds in the Garden
Without a broad public forum, some scam artists will move on to easier targets, but others will try to pitch their idea to individual members. Pay attention to who this person talks to and especially pay attention to more vulnerable members of your congregation. If you think your church or ministry has a member that is taking advantage of your parishioners using affinity fraud tactics, don’t hesitate to contact Weeds in the Garden and we’ll help you detect fraud and set up protection.