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.

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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 >>>

Alert: Tax Refund Scam Mail Circulating


Did you receive a Tax Refund Notification email like this?

The sender of the email is using the following address (in my case) www-service@nz.govt.nz.

Delete but most of all do not respond or give any of your details. I just got confirmed that this is a scam from the IRD.

Document Reference (168591)

 

IRD: Watch for hoax tax refund email – Fraud – NZ Herald News


Another hoax email is circulating, this time offering people a tax refund in exchange for credit card details, Inland Revenue says.

A link in the email directs people to a fake webpage with an Inland Revenue logo where people are asked to enter personal details including their credit card details.

Anyone that falls for the scam risks having their credit card details stolen, Inland Revenue group manager for assistance Charles Ronaldson said.

Inland Revenue is asking people to ignore the email and to never click on any links within a suspicious email.

For those who may have already given away their bank details, the advice is to contact their bank or credit card provider.

To report suspicious emails that target Inland Revenue customers, people should email phishing@ird.govt.nz

NZPA

via IRD: Watch for hoax tax refund email – Fraud – NZ Herald News.

ADDITIONAL WARNING

It is noted here that In Christchurch (before the earthquake) there were people visiting premises claiming to be from Tax Refund (www.taxrefund.co.nz). From a reliable source it was learned that Tax Refund does not have people out there going door to door and copying vital information using a camera. It is recommended that you do not let these people in or if you do do not had them any of your private information.

Scam threat to NZ firms – technology | Stuff.co.nz


In a typically 21st century crime, fraudsters have used scam emails and fake websites to steal more than €3 million (NZ$6m) of carbon credits from international businesses.

The Economic Development Ministry said businesses in New Zealand were at risk from the fraud, but it was confident none had fallen victim.

It has written to all companies with carbon credits registered on its database, reminding them to guard their account details and passwords.

The ministry said hoax emails were sent to businesses in several countries aimed at persuading them to click on links that took them to fake websites, where they were asked to key in their account details and passwords.

Such “phishing” scams are commonly used to defraud banks, but ministry spokeswoman Emilia Mazur said it was believed to be the first time the US$135 billion (NZ$196b) carbon credit market had been targeted.

Quoting Hans-Juergen Nantke, head of German carbon credit registry DEHSt, Reuters reported that carbon credits had been stolen from six German firms and that others in the European Union and in Australia, Norway and New Zealand had been targeted.

These countries were at risk because they allow credits to be transferred overseas.

The ministry checked its database at the request of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Mazur said no New Zealand firms had transferred credits overseas since the scam came to light. None had reported thefts.

She was unsure how the fraudsters planned to cash in the credits. “I personally wouldn’t know what to do with carbon credits. They don’t seem to take them down at McDonald’s.”

via Scam threat to NZ firms – technology | Stuff.co.nz.

COMMENT

All I can say is that the the scheme itself should have never been there in the first place as it is based on cooked up research and now we find that it is actually causing new scams to arise. It was a matter of time I guess.

Scamming Alert for Businesses


The Takapuna Beach Business Association is alerting its members about scams that have hit North Shore businesses during the past few weeks.

Association general manager Peter White says: “It pays to always be a step ahead of the scammers.”

He says one of the scams involves a person emailing to book a group dinner.

A man who introduces himself as Cole Parkinson from Glasgow, Scotland, makes a booking for 10 persons for three consecutive nights.

He then makes an initial deposit of $1500 with the promise of paying for any other additional bills on the last night.

“They book and pay by credit card and then cancel and get you to pay money back into another account,” Mr White says.

Mr White says the Browns Bay Business Association recently alerted its members about a retail scammer that has victimised a shop.

The man calls into a shop and quickly grabs two retail products.

He then goes to the checkout saying his mother-in-law has had a reaction and tries to get a cash refund for the two products he hasn’t bought.

The man talks really quickly like he’s in a hurry and flustered.

The shop owner says the man had victimised them before and came around to try to dupe them the second time.

“He knew I was on to him today so he left minus his products and any money.

“I suggested if the reaction was causing his mother-in-law significant distress and discomfort he should take her to a doctor,” the shop owner says.

Mr White says he has issued an alert to all their members who might be caught off guard by these scammers.

Source: STUFF