How to Avoid Money Scams Aimed at Christians

By Lee Jenkins

If I had all the money I\’ve seen churches and Christians throw away in financial scams, get-rich-quick schemes and bad investments, I would be a multi-gazillionaire!

In 2008, we heard about the mother of all scams—the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. However, everyday in churches across America, people are getting ripped-off!

Recently, members of the mega church, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, complained about investments they made, and subsequently lost, in a “kingdom venture” gone bad. About a million dollars vanished according to the investors and their pastor.

A few years ago, a member of Gospel music\’s first family, the Winans, was embroiled in a controversy that (according to state regulators) lost as much as $11 million in a Ponzi scheme involving Saudi Arabian crude oil bonds.

Let\’s stop throwing God\’s money down the drain! Below are four ways to avoid a financial scam:
1. Realize your Pastor is your spiritual leader, not your investment counselor! Just because your pastor endorses a person or a venture doesn\’t mean you should follow their recommendation. It\’s certainly O.K. to listen to him/her, but in addition, get professional financial advice.
2. Do your own due diligence. That means you must delve into the background, qualifications, and track record of the person/entity presenting the “opportunity.” Always assume that the venture is not legit; then allow your research to prove otherwise.
3. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is! If there is little to no risk, promise of high returns, no cost, and a “once in a lifetime opportunity” cloaked in scripture…run!
4. Beware of people who target the church with their products or services. Scam artists love to target church folks because they know many of us are ignorant and gullible when it comes to business. It\’s called “Affinity Fraud.” The hallmark of the fraud is that the scammer looks like or talks like a member of that group. He may be a member of the congregation or a person who people admire or look up to.

Remember, because you lose money in a venture doesn\’t make it a scam. There are risks associated with any investment or venture. On the other hand, just because someone makes money doesn\’t mean it\’s legit. Scam artists have to show some success in order to lure more people in. Heed Jesus\’ admonition to be “wise as serpents” (Matthew 10:16) and you should be O.K.

Buyer Beware!
According to the New York Daily News these are the top five scams to watch out for:

1. Fake foreclosure prevention
Scammers claim they can negotiate with lenders, then pressure desperate homeowners to pay an upfront fee for nothing in return. Some even persuade homeowners to sign over their deeds for credit repair — taking not just your house but also all the equity you put into it.
2. Phony debt consolidation

Debt consolidation loans that promise (for a fee) to wrap up all your bills in one easy-to-manage monthly payment — but can’t wipe out what you owe.
3. Online job scams
Beware of online-only job postings that want you to turn over your Social Security number or pay a “background check” fee.
4. Work-at-home frauds
Unsolicited pitches to make big money working from home usually have a catch. If a con artist sends you a check as upfront payment, beware — he or she can use it to siphon off your bank account information, and the check likely will bounce.
5. Credit counseling scams
So-called credit counselors that charge high, upfront or monthly fees, or pressure you for credit card and bank account numbers. Ask questions and read the fine print.