Mormons Now Losing Billions to Affinity Fraud

Mormon folks in Utah have been fleeced of $1.4 billion over the past few years in affinity fraud schemes designed to exploit their connection to the LDS community and culture, according to news reports.

Oh, yes, we’ve all seen it. Or heard about it from friends and relatives. Ponzi schemes. Multi-level marketing. Miracle health products. Peddled to people who have been raised in an LDS culture that values “insider” status, kinship ties, hierarchy, and unquestioning respect for authority over critical thinking and skepticism.

A Mormon taste for the miraculous doesn’t hurt either.

Fraud peddlers have been known to call down church membership lists and enlist returned missionaries fresh back from service and hungry for work. Their capital? Utah County, Utah, home to Brigham Young University, and the beating heart of the Book of Mormon belt.

A friend from a northern Utah farmtown remembers that her dad always said: “If the first thing someone says when they introduce themselves to you is that they’re LDS, keep your hand on your wallet.”

Sigh.

And amen.

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Joanna Brooks is the author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith (Free Press / Simon & Schuster, 2012) and a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches.