Fleecing the Faithful—Again: Former YWAM Leader Defrauds Many


A Swedish Christian businessman swindled friends, family, and missionaries of millions of dollars

Ken Walker | posted 6/08/2011 09:52AM

When Jan and Henny Pauw visited Le Rucher on a summer missions trip, they never dreamed it would wind up costing them their retirement nest egg. The Dutch couple became ensnared in a faith-based Ponzi scheme that operated for a dozen years before it unraveled.

Nestled on two acres at the base of France’s Jura Mountains and the nearby Swiss Alps, the Le Rucher retreat center opened in 1994 to help stressed-out missionaries recuperate. But Le Rucher became the setting for the promotion of the fraudulent Nordic Capital Investments (NCI), which has created resentment toward Le Rucher co-founder Erik Spruyt. Last October, Swedish businessman Kristian Westergard, the founder of NCI and a close associate of Spruyt’s, was convicted of gross fraud in Sweden and sentenced to prison.

In 1998, the Pauws went to Le Rucher—then associated with Youth With a Mission (YWAM)—with their evangelical church in Ermelo, the Netherlands. An industrial chemist by trade, Jan had never been on a Christian mission. On the couple’s first trip, Spruyt suggested they consider becoming long-term volunteers. Jan replied that they couldn’t afford it.

When the Pauws returned the following summer, Spruyt repeated the suggestion. Jan demurred. Then, they say, Spruyt introduced them to NCI, a special investment fund that paid interest of 15 percent a year (the rate on a contract they later signed). It had the potential to generate enough income to support the couple. Part of the attraction was the promise that some of the fund’s earnings would generate charitable support for select Christian missions. The Pauws invested euros worth $260,000. The following year they moved to Le Rucher as volunteers.

In total, the couple received more than $230,000 before payments ceased. But the principal amount of their nest egg has vanished. They still rue their decision to trust Spruyt’s referral to NCI. In a 2001 e-mail with a sample NCI contract, he said, “If you want to take this seriously then this is the procedure that I recommend to you with the amount you want to invest.”

“All we have now is our old-age pension and a small pension from my work as an industrial chemist,” Pauw says. “Sometimes we think, How could we have been so stupid to believe them? Why did we trust them?

Read the rest of this article at Christianity Today here >>>

Some remarks

I guess what we are reading here is how well affinity frauds work. You gain the trust of the leaders or as a leader you have a natural amount of trust associated with you and from there on it becomes easier to lure in new victims. And for the record this works the same with all these marvelous business opportunities that lure in the small people. It is not surprising that these business opportunities are so often targeted at church communities: there is a naturally higher level of trust.

Part of why this works is that lack of financial understanding, business understanding, innumeracy so you which is being replaced by trust in the person offering you the opportunity. It is for this reason that leaders are targeted first. Once you have the leader over the bridge the rest of the sheep will follow. And for the record, no one is immune and we all run a risk of falling for it.

On Affinity Fraud

Affinity fraud is when one person gains the trust of others because they share the same religion, race, ethnicity, career or other social characteristic and then deceives them in some kind of financial transaction. Now this is not necessarily intentional, as this may also be the result of a misguided participant in one scheme or another, a gifting club or pyramid scheme or the pyramid scheme posing as a legitimate MLM.

In a world of increasing complexity many do not know how to properly investigate the credibility of an offering and trust becomes an increasing factor relied on.

“You can trust me, because I’m like you. We share the same background and interests. And I can help you make money.”

The normal process of cautious skepticism is replaced by social blah blah, and for the record, it works. Another tactic used is to first lure in some prominent members of a group and once that is done the others are pitched using the credibility and good name of the group leaders: the elder, the pastor etc.

With the hierarchy of leaders and followers already established, the investment becomes merely an extension of our desire to belong and be accepted.

The fact that some of the earlier entrants, the ones you know and trust, are receiving good money is not a guarantee that it is all good, that is the essential working of a pyramid scheme, the high INITIAL returns. The case outlined in Christianity Today show that exactly and there are many more known cases throughout history.

What makes those types of scams extra attractive is that  once an affinity fraud victim realizes that he or she has been scammed, all too often the response is not to notify the authorities but instead to try to solve problems within the group. This usually just ensures that the fraud continues without anyone reporting it to the authorities until it is too late to recover funds. Scammers recognize that the tight-knit structure of many groups makes it less likely that a scam will be detected by regulators and law enforcement officials, and that victims will be more forgiving of one of their own members.

Some tips

Some way to revent becoming a victim of affinity fraud are:

  • NEVER TRUST PEOPLE BLINDLY.
    No matter how well you know someone or think you can trust them, always be cautious when it comes to handing over your hard earned money. Ask questions about the scheme and keep on doing that until you understand the scheme. Let them know that you are aware of all the scams that are taking place regularly in today’s world. Just because a person is a fellow Christian, it does not mean that he or she is a good person who will not cheat you, intentionally or out of ignorance.
  • DO YOU DUE DILIGENCE; CHECK THINGS OUT THOROUGHLY
    Use the Net, call others with financial; insights and not associated with the scheme or seek professional advice, but whatever you do, never step into a scheme you do not understand.
  • DO NOT GET GREEDY
    The strange thing is that many of these schemes promise high yield on low risk or even risk free investments. In the financial world however the principle  is usually exactly the other way around: the higher the returns the higher the risks. Greed is a sin, not just because the Bible tells us it is, but because nothing good can come of greed. It leaves us wanting more and more, no matter how much we already have. Desist from this emotion and you and your money are safe. Know that God will provide you in all your needs which is something different than all your wants.

Possibly Related articles

Huffington Post on Facebook Scams


Facebook recently launched a new security wall to block scammers, but many are worried these measures won’t stop spam from spreading and that determined con artists will simply find new ways to get at unsuspecting users.

We’ve all seen suspicious posts on Facebook–a friend’s curiously impersonal message that’s riddled with odd typos, the irresistible app offering a chance to see who has viewed your profile, and more. These scams are sometimes obvious and easy to avoid, other times nefarious and simple to fall for. Despite Facebook’s security features, safe social networking rests in the user’s own hands.

Read the rest of the article here >>>

Do you know what your children are up to online?


As I was reading the news today, the headline “Predatory woman scams boys” grabbed the immediate attention. Here we have a woman with a fake identity chatting up boys with the hormones raging through their systems in order to obtain sensitive information like credit card details. Police confirmed that there was a groping side to her activities. (Read the article here >>>)


While it is great that children are able to be connected through sites such as Facebook I am also convinced that parents have an important role to play in keeping our youngsters safe. I know for a fact that there are several children that are between 6 and 10 that already have their own Facebook profile, despite all the age restrictions. My own boys come home and want a Facebook profile because “everyone else in my class has one.” Once children seemed happy with sites like “club penguin” specifically designed for our young ones and others like that. But no, they need a Facebook page. I will not go into the question whether or not a parent should allow their kid to break age restrictions, as the same would apply to movies, tv programmes, computer games and more. What I do think is that in all this, as parents we have a responsibility to keep an eye on what your kids are doing. I admit that it becomes harder and harder, with mobile and smart phones at every decreasing ages, bit it does not seem to make sense to just let our children go out there unattended, unprotected and basically left to their own devices.

The news story confirmed such a viewpoint:

“It comes down to parents knowing what their children are doing on Facebook and who they are talking to,” he said.

NetSafe executive director Martin Cocker said it was a rare case.

“It is fairly uncommon for an adult female to groom and scam teenage boys. More effective scammers understand the needs of the victim and play on those. With teenage boys, they want to be liked by teenage girls, so that makes it a target,” he said.

Parents should make sure children were aware that scammers operated online, he said.

I previously posted on similar subject matter:

Here are tips to enhance your safety and more importantly that of your child:

  • Most importantly be open and make sure your child can talk with you, make sure it knows it is being loved
  • Be clear in the agreements with your child in what is and what is not allowed and what to do in case of an incident
  • Explain the risks of online sexual solicitation and the risk of talking to strangers
  • Discuss the risks of meeting face to face and be very cautious about it
    • Do some checks first before you give your ok
    • Make sure meetings if any are in public places
    • Make sure that you know where your children are
  • Teach your children to be very careful with sending and posting personal information
  • Install firewall, filtering software, anti spy ware, anti virus software and monitor what is going on on the internet
  • Be open about that and discuss your worries
  • Encrypt wireless networks at home
  • Discourage downloading games and other media that could contain undesired content
  • Supervise contacts and friends the same way as in real life
  • Monitor on line activity of your children regularly
  • Set security settings high of your software (windows, browser and email) high
  • Understand and approve used screen names and ensure they don’t guve away too much private details
  • Make sure that children post only what they and you are comfortable with when others see it
  • Discuss the need of posting a photo in profiles
  • Discuss that flirting with strangers can be risky and even dangerous
  • Trust your gut feeling if you are suspicious or uncomfortable
  • Report suspected behavior
    Read the rest of the post here >>>

Besides that I recommend you reread my 85 tips for staying safe online here >>>. In relation to social networking and child safety I posted the following tips

SOCIAL WEB

  1. You don’t need to use you real name at all times, nicknames are an accepted practice and can help protecting your privacy for instance in chat rooms and on forums and newsgroups. Consider using a web based email address (www.gmail.comwww.hotmail.com etc).
  2. Think carefully before giving out personal information during IM, in chat rooms, newsgroups etc. You don’t always (very often if not always) know who you are talking to.
  3. Remember that people can change their identity or lie about who they really are.
  4. If you want to meet someone you met in a chat room in person, talk on the phone first, meet in a public place and let someone else know what you are doing.
  5. Be careful what you post on your profile at for instance myspace, facebook, hi5, hyves, and consider your privacy options.
  6. If your sharing photos online, check the meta data you are sending out and if necessary remove it. Depending on the camera you used there could be private information on there you may not want to share.
  7. Bloggers and tweeters, keep in mind that people have gotten in trouble about what they post with third parties and employers. Think before you hit the publish button or consider blogging anonymously.

KEEPING THE KIDS SAFE

  1. Place the computer where you can see it.
  2. Set clear rules, which may include time spent online and what is and is not allowed online. Punishing inappropriate behavior afterward. may not be the best solution if there were no clear rules upfront. Banning your child from the net may lead to them finding ways to access the internet out of sight and your control (at a friend’s place, the library an internet cafe).
  3. Make sure you know the password of your children so you can check what they have been doing and where they have been.
  4. Don’t scare your children away from the net and explain that like in the real world there are some fruit loops out there that they may run into.
  5. Take an interest in your child’s activities online, even if you don’t feel confident about your own abilities, encourage them to open communication.
  6. Encourage your child to report anything out of the ordinary or unpleasant they encounter online an be seen to follow up on it.
  7. Do not be intimidated by technology, ASK IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND. The dumbest question is the one not asked.
  8. Don’t overreact. Not every incident is as serious as it may appear. Try to determine if incidents are of an isolated, coincidental nature and best to be ignored or a signal of potential trouble that needs closer monitoring. (Keep the communication open see 5.)
  9. Keep credit cards away / out of reach of your children, you could end up with unpleasant surprises.
  10. Check whether any chat rooms your children use are moderated (for instance the Penquin Club). This means that the site has arrenged for someone overlooking the chat sessions and throw anyone out that is a nuisance.
  11. Discourage your kids from having one-on-one conversations as opposed to addressing the complete chat room.
  12. Instant messaging = one-on-one and if you find your child doing that, make sure you know who the person on the other side is. Preferably allow this only with people they and you know.
  13. Consider installing a content filtering system or join with an ISP that tries to filter websites. Remember that there are no 100% fail safe systems so don’t get complacent or a false sense of security.
  14. If possible check your child’s surf history and keep in mind that computer savvy kids may be able to get rid of what they don’t want you to see. If you are of a paranoid nature, consider having all your child’s email coming through an email address under your control.
  15. Don’t think children are just curious about sex and porn, there is a wealth of stuff out there that will be interesting to the explorative youngster including things such as drugs, hacking an cracking, illegal downloading, and even things like making bombs.
  16. Don’t isolate talks with your children from the rest of life, it is all part of the same bigger picture of safety in general.
  17. The internet may be able to assist your child in learning about a lot of things including life but IT CAN NOT BE A REPLACEMENT FOR PARENTAL GUIDANCE.
  18. Don’t automatically assume that inappropriate behaviour is your child’s fault. Building trust and confidence may well be more constructive.
  19. Keep yourself informed about what is going on on the net.
  20. Don’t forget that mobile phones may have internet access as well. If your child has a mobile, make sure you set similarly clear ground rules.

Stay safe everybody

Scam Alert: MICROSOFT SERVICE DEPARTMENT – TELEPHONE CALL SCAM


My good friend John Veitch of Open Future, alerted us of the following scam that has been doing the rounds, apparently also in Christchurch. With businesses trying to recover and set up again the last thing you’d want to happen to you. At the same time if there is ever a time when this may sound plausible it is right now, and in all the recovery hectics you may just be a bit less on guard than in your usual state of being. So BE ALERTED AND DO NOT FALL FOR IT.

Microsoft Service Department – Telephone Call Scam

This is the third time I’ve been called. I didn’t hang up early this time, I tried to find out more about what was happening. Here’s the routine.

A Indian sounding voice claims that we are representing the “Microsoft Service Department”

I asked for some way to verify that, ad I was offered this phone number. (09 951 8119)

Then someone tried to explain the purpose of the call. When I asked questions I was passed to someone else (That happened three times.)

Here’s what the want you to do.

Open the Start Menu
Right Click “My Computer”
Right Click “Manage”
Under system tools double click “Event Viewer”

Open either
Application
or System

They tried to tell me that items marked with the red x were corrupted software.
The yellow triangles were virus infections
The blue I indicated junk files.

They asked me to go to
Start and open the RUN command box.
http://www.support.me

That brings up a page that apparently allows remote online support.

Then they ask me to enter my “6 digit warranty code”.
“Do you remember that code sir?”

They tell me it’s the last six digits of the Windows Product number for my machine.
76xxx-OEM-00xxxxxxxx1-51349 for me so they wanted 151349

I stopped them at that point.

Later I discover some videos about this scam. This is one of the better ones.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuCFlR-YNdc&feature=related

For the sake of completeness here is the video.

Do not be fooled and thanks John.

Earthquake Relief Scams Info


As was to be expected some will see the earthquake as an opportunity to scam others. The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE) published a list of genuine Earthquake relief organizations including their banking details.

I suggest to these organizations for any donation. Additionally a good a blog on earthquake relief organizations can be found on charity navigator here >>>

Appalled


For those that did not follow the news, Christchurch was hit with another massive earthquake again last Tuesday. This time the city is in complete shambles. Horrible as that all may be, again just as after the last time people see in this an opportunity to steal from others.

First we read about the house of one of the missing persons there had been a burglary while the family was waiting and hoping for some good news from the CTV building  here>>>

Or what to think of this message on voxy

Wellington, Feb 25 NZPA – Two men charged with stealing three emergency generators a day after the Christchurch earthquake face a month behind bars after a special Christchurch District Court sitting this morning to deal with criminal cases in the wake of the quake.

Jed Wilson-Calver,
22, unemployed, and Owen Anthony Jackson, a 23-year-old fisherman, offered to leave the city immediately if granted bail, but Judge Michael Crosbie refused, remanding them in custody until March 28, Christchurch Court News website reported.

Judge Crosbie told them: “Those who burgle, loot, steal, or impersonate officials at this time demonstrate that they are capable of anything.”

“Anyone who the courts deem a risk to the community can be expect to be remanded in custody.”

It was the fourth sitting of the court held at the police station following the suspension of regular court sittings since Tuesday.

Judge Crosbie said the generators, worth $6000, were set up to provide back-up power for essential communications. They were stolen between 7.30pm and 10pm on Wednesday.

“My job is to assess the risk,” the judge told both men.

They were charged with stealing vital equipment at a time when people were “dying around us”.

“What would possess someone to do that?” he asked.

The session dealt with other people charged with earthquake-related offences, including Nathan John de Seymour, 22, a hammer hand, of the southern suburb of Beckenham, who was charged with burglary of a house.

He was also remanded in custody to March 28.

Source http://www.voxy.co.nz/national/custody-remand-accused-quake-thieves/5/83591

I guess the Dominion Post coverage of the first two men tells it all:

The two men lifted their middle fingers to the courtroom as they were led back to the cells. Bail was denied, and they were remanded until March 28.

Or what to think of this:

In a separate incident, a looter was caught red handed by police stealing a pearl drum set from a music store in Blenheim Road in the early hours of this morning.

The thief had smashed the front window to gain entry. Police caught and arrested a man 15 metres from the store.

There have also been reports of at least two people – apparently of Australian nationality – presenting themselves to the fire service as both Urban Search and Rescue and Disaster Victim Identification staff. Enquiries showed these people are not credited to either role.

District Commander Superintendent Dave Cliff said as well as making arrests for burglaries and thefts, police had been dealing with cases of drunken disorder and people breaching cordons.

“We urge you to be vigilant, look after the property of your neighbours and if you see something suspicious don’t hesitate to call police.”

Police are continuing to patrol the city with the New Zealand Defence Force, Mr Cliff said.

“We are ramping up our reassurance patrols around the city,” he said.”In he next 48-hours you will see a radical saturation of patrols.”

Police have received reports of people imitating officials, such as aid workers and EQC staff, including one asking to see a resident’s personal possessions with the aim of returning to steal them.

“Please ask for ID, they will have it [if they are legitimate,” Mr Cliff said.

People who have officials come to their home can also call authorities to confirm the identity of the official.

In the rest of the article we read of the first incidents of scams related to the earthquake, people posing as victims that are in need of money. Online the anger about these people can be read on twitter and facebook. And the following initiative was but one that had to transpire:

Public Humiliation for the Looters of the 22/02/2011 Earthquake.

May the bold print of the names above be a small contribution.

 

Securities Commission Warning: Illegal Share offer by IRA NRG NZ Limited (INNL)


8 December 2010

News release

The Securities Commission warns people of an illegal share offer by Ira NRG NZ Limited (INNL) and its sole director Simon Romana.  The Commission has banned the company’s website and the content of the website has been removed.  There is no registered prospectus for the offer.

The website of INNL described INNL’s plans to generate electricity and sell it to the national grid.  The website included claims of future income that are not substantiated on the website.  There were no assumptions disclosed relating to the prospective financial information as required by law.

“The public offer of shares by INNL is illegal as there is no prospectus.  Any purported allotment of shares to investors would be void and of no effect.  People should not invest in this company until it complies with the requirements of the Securities Act 1978″ said Securities Commission Chairman, Jane Diplock.

INNL was incorporated in March 2010.

Ends

Contact Rebecca Barclay 04 471 76666

More about this company can be found on the company’s website at http://www.aworldwithoutoil.com/ as well as an investment statement.