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Lord of Life Church loses $24,000

BAXTER, Minn. — Lord of Life Church in Baxter fell victim to identity theft and lost $24,000, but has since recovered $10,000 of the money, Sarah Speer, church council president, said Friday.

Speer said she was notified almost immediately after bank and church staff made the discovery on Sept. 24 that the church had been scammed.

Speer said scam artists spoofed a staff email address to make it look like emails were coming from inside the building, requesting money to be wired for a benevolence project. More than 60 emails were exchanged.

“We have accounting controls in place, but scammers are smart and have anticipated some of those protocols and then figure out how to create urgency,” Speer said. “Churches operate on very thin margins. It did really take some of the wind from our sails, for sure.”

She said they are confident the breech was specific to their email accounts and no member or financial information was compromised. The church, which is a member of the Evangelical Church of America, has more than 1,600 members.

Speer feels “pretty comfortable” that no one from the church is behind the scam and that it appears to be from someone overseas. She said looking back at the wording on the emails, the phrases in them were not needed in the English language and not “how we would put the words.”

Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted said the police department is investigating the financial fraud case at the church.

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